Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The USA Today News Story About Pill Mills, Police view of Pain pill problem

States target prescriptions by 'pill mills 'http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-10-13/pill-mill-drug-trafficking/50896242/1
By Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY Updated 9h 42m ago
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When federal agents arrested a man with 6,000 oxycodone pills in a Stamford, Conn., hotel room in April, they stumbled onto an expansive criminal ring that exposed a growing trend: drug tourism.

By Tim Chapman, AP
Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks about prescription-drug abuse with a million dollars' worth of pain pills in the background. The pills were turned in by pain clinics to meet the deadline for a law made to control pill mills.
By Tim Chapman, AP
Florida Gov. Rick Scott talks about prescription-drug abuse with a million dollars' worth of pain pills in the background. The pills were turned in by pain clinics to meet the deadline for a law made to control pill mills.

The man, whom the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has not identified because he is a witness in the case, told agents he traveled to Florida several times a week, taking advantage of lax laws governing pain clinics to purchase large quantities of prescription painkillers. His suppliers in Florida would send large groups of people into pain clinics with cash and medical cards to feign illness and buy the pills.
The man would return to Connecticut to sell them for a huge profit, bribing airport security officers and police so he could transport as many as 8,000 pills each trip.

He made more than 65 trips from November to April, court papers say. The ring involved more than a dozen people who sold "tens of thousands" of pills to addicts in Connecticut during the past year, U.S. Attorney David Fein said.
The case illustrates how drug dealers and addicts in search of potent prescription painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin are traveling to Florida and other states with lax prescription-drug laws to get their fix. Police say they have found drug "tourists" dead of overdoses in hotels and rental cars.
Now states are trying to outsmart the criminals by tracking prescriptions through statewide databases and by toughening their laws to make it more difficult for unscrupulous clinics to dispense large numbers of prescription pain pills. And in the latest move against drug tourists, states are linking their databases to try to stop dealers from roaming state to state.
Selling such prescription drugs is so profitable that dealers and operators of the high-volume pain clinics — known to authorities as "pill mills" — quickly find ways around the new laws or set up shop in another state to avoid them.
"We have to adapt and overcome and improvise. We have to stay one step ahead of them," says Florida Surgeon General Frank Farmer. "We've all determined that this is a problem that must be solved."
About 7 million people regularly use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes, the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls prescription-drug abuse a "national epidemic." Prescription drugs, including narcotic pain relievers and anti-depressants, cause more overdose deaths than "street drugs" such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, the CDC says.
In Florida, the problem has been devastating: The death rate from oxycodone increased 265% from 2003 to 2009, the CDC found. By 2009, the number of deaths involving prescription drugs was four times the deaths involving street drugs, the CDC said in a July report.
All but two states — Missouri and New Hampshire— have enacted laws that set up prescription drug monitoring programs.
The databases track prescriptions so doctors can access patients' records to determine whether they already have multiple orders for a narcotic. Pharmacists can flag police if they suspect a doctor or clinic is dispensing an unusually large amount of painkillers. Police can use the records to bolster their cases against "pill mills" that dispense massive quantities of pain pills with little or no examination of patients.
In August, Kentucky and Ohio became the first states to link their databases to make it tougher for addicts in one of the states to avoid detection by visiting a doctor in the other. Those states joined with West Virginia and Tennessee in an interstate alliance to coordinate databases, laws and investigations to try to keep pill mills shut down in one state from popping up across the border.
"Kentucky and Ohio have already broken the code," says Bruce Grant, former executive director of the Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy in Florida. "By agreeing to provide information to pursue investigation, you won't have people jumping back and forth over state lines and doing this with impunity."
Last month, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy launched a database hub that allows a doctor or pharmacist to retrieve painkiller prescription data from any state linked into the hub, Executive Director Carmen Catizone says. Ohio, Indiana and Virginia have linked in and 20 other states have agreed to do so this year, he says.
"The states came to us," Cantizone says. "They wanted a way to talk to one another."
Addicts and dealers are clever, says Sherry Green, CEO of the National Alliance of Model State Drug Laws. They will cross borders to escape their state's tracking system or move a pill mill to another state if they think law enforcement is nosing around, she says.
"There are people from Kentucky going down to Florida all the time, and it's not just the person who is addicted. You also have people who make a profit on it," Green says.
Dealers are willing to travel long distances "if they feel they can make money selling the drugs on the black market," she says.................................. The whole story is @ http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-10-13/pill-mill-drug-trafficking/50896242/1

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