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Tag Archives: pain clinics
Pharmacy officials in Georgia are reporting that robberies are occurring with greater frequency in light of the state’s recent crackdown on pill mills. According to this article, Georgia became a pill mill magnet after neighboring states, including Florida, passed tougher laws regulating pain clinics.
Georgia lawmakers passed similar legislation last year requiring pain clinics to be licensed by the state medical board and owned by physicians, and the state also launched a prescription drug monitoring program, the article says. As the pill mills have dwindled, pharmacy officials say people who have addictions are being forced to seek drugs elsewhere, leading to the spike in robberies, the article says.
In 2010 alone, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Medical Examiner’s Office reported there were 560 prescription drug-related deaths in the 152 of 159 counties for which it performs autopsies — at least a 10 percent increase since 2009.
Florida’s efforts to combat painkiller abuse resulted in the number of pill mills in that state dropping from 854 to 580 between March 2011 and March 2012, according to this article. In that same time period, the number of inappropriate prescribers of OxyContin in Florida dropped from 98 to 11; Florida previously had the most prescribers of OxyContin in the nation, the article says.
An investigation into prescription pill and heroin abuse in New Jersey has revealed the operation of illicit medical practices run by unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corrupt physicians, some with ties to organized crime.
The report by the state’s Commission of Investigation found that the painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic has taken an unprecedented hold in the suburbs that is far more serious than the heroin crisis of the 1960s and ’70s. According to the commission, a network of corrupt doctors — some feeding Russian organized crime by bilking Medicaid and Medicare — has created a proliferation of painkillers and heroin, with open-air drug markets in cities and at malls in affluent communities. For example, in the span of 19 months in 2010 and 2011, one local pharmacy had 3,100 prescriptions for pills, nearly all with various quantities of oxycodone, the report found.
In 2011, there were 1,008 drug deaths in New Jersey — a 20% increase over 2010, and nearly half were people 25 or younger, according to this article. Of those, 337 involved oxycodone, and 368 involved heroin mixed with other illicit drugs, the article says.
As the prescription drug epidemic in New York’s Staten Island gets more attention, addicts and criminals are discovering it increasingly difficult to get doctors here to write new prescriptions for oxycodone, or find pharmacies willing to fill those scripts for new patients, which is pushing people elsewhere to obtain the painkiller, according to this article. An analysis of state health department data showed that in 2012, borough residents received 141,481 prescriptions for the drug; Staten Island physicians were responsible for writing out 110,327 of those prescriptions, meaning at least 31,000 of Islander’s scripts, possibly more, come from off-Island doctors, the article says.
Similarly, pharmacies in the borough filled out 122,048 oxycodone prescriptions in 2012, indicating that residents went off-Island to fill at least 19,400 of their scripts, the article says.
By comparison, Manhattan residents received just 264,271 prescriptions for oxycodone last year, but doctors there wrote out nearly twice as many scripts there — 514,819 in total, according to the article.
And unfortunately, the dwindling supply of pills may start to push people towards other dangerous opiates, according to one treatment director quoted in the article:
Everybody who’s been using for the past 10 years, they aren’t going to stop. They’re going to heroin.
The Minnesota Medical Association is considering requiring doctors to take continuing education courses on pain management and addiction and increasing use of the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program in order to deal with the state’s prescription drug abuse issue, according to this article. As of March 2013, only 40% of pharmacists and 30% of doctors in Minnesota were using the monitoring system, according to the article.
Florida has taken a number of measures to combat its prescription drug addiction problem, with the unintended consequence of the resurgence of heroin as a popular substitute for painkillers. From July 2010 to June 2011, there were 45 heroin-related deaths statewide, according to this article, which cites data from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission. That number jumped to 77 heroin-related deaths from July 2011 to June 2012, the article says.
The article also notes that addiction treatment numbers are up in Florida, with treatment centers in Broward County seeing an 87% increase in admissions in 2012 among addicts using heroin as their drug of choice, up from 169 to 316; in Miami-Dade County, such admissions jumped from 227 to 308 in the first half of 2012.
It was reported earlier this year that while the number of oxycodone-related deaths in Florida plunged during the first half of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011, heroin-related deaths were holding steady.
Florida’s crackdown on painkiller abuse has resulted in the number of pill mills in the state dropping from 854 to 580 between March 2011 and March 2012, according to this article.
Georgia’s new prescription drug monitoring database, which is set to become operational in June, may run out of the money it needs to operate soon after its implementation because lawmakers failed to appropriate any funding for the program when they passed legislation to create it in 2011, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
A two-year, $400,000 federal grant that pays startup costs for a new prescription monitoring program grant expires Sept. 30, the paper says.
In Georgia — which is among the last six states in the nation to put a prescription monitoring program in place, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws — prescription drug abuse causes or contributes to the overdose deaths of 11 people every week.
Florida’s crackdown on pill mills has dried up the supply of pills to much of the East Coast, with the unintended consequence of fueling heroin abuse. As this article notes, the rise in heroin use on Cape Cod “follows a predictable course seen nationwide: when the pills disappear, heroin sweeps in.”
Between Feb. 26 and March 30, the Cape saw at least eight drug-related deaths; in the same period, police responded to another four suspected heroin overdoses in which the person was revived, the article says.
A few years ago, most cases handled by the Cape Cod Drug Task Force involved pills, but now the police estimate that as much as 95% of their caseload is heroin-related, according to the article.
The trend highlights the fallout from Florida’s efforts to turn around its reputation as the nation’s epicenter of prescription drug abuse. On the bright side, the tougher regulations resulted in the number of pill mills in the state dropping from 854 to 580 between March 2011 and March 2012, according to this article.
In that same time period, the number of inappropriate prescribers of OxyContin in Florida dropped from 98 to 11; Florida previously had the most prescribers of OxyContin in the nation, the article says.
In a sign that some of the measures Florida has taken to combat its prescription drug addiction problem are working, state authorities are reporting that the number of oxycodone-related deaths plunged during the first half of 2012 compared with the same period in 2011. From January 2012 to June 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths, down from 1,058 during the same period in 2011, according to this article.
In that time period, there were 42 oxycodone-related deaths in Orange and Osceola counties — fewer than half the number of those deaths during the same period of the previous year — while heroin-related deaths remained the same, the article says. Meanwhile, in Seminole County, the number of oxycodone-related deaths during the 2011 and 2012 periods remained the same, 19, and there were increases in deaths associated with cocaine, methadone and morphine, according to the article.
While these numbers are encouraging, the Miami Herald recently called into question how effective the state’s crackdown on pills has really been. Although many of Florida’s so-called “pill mills” seem to have shifted to the more permissive regulatory environment in nearby Georgia, some operators have switched to weight-loss or anti-aging clinics, where they continue to sell profitable pharmaceuticals right on the premises, the article noted.
Although opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. (This always amazes me, but I myself didn’t know about naloxone until well after my brother’s heroin overdose death in 2009. It took less than 10 minutes for me to get trained in Narcan use by the wonderful folks at the D.O.P.E. Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce fatal overdose deaths by providing overdose prevention education and naloxone to drug users and their loved ones — and if you live in the Bay Area, I highly suggest contacting them to get trained.)
In Canada — which is second only to the U.S. in per-capita consumption of prescription opiates — naloxone costs less than $12, but isn’t widely distributed or acknowledged, according to the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council. In a powerful new short film, the WRCPC explains how naloxone can help save lives and highlights the need for expanding overdose prevention.
Distributing the life-saving opioid overdose reverser naloxone can save one life for every 227 naloxone kits distributed, a study found earlier this year.
Iowa has taken an interesting approach towards stopping the practice of seeking out multiple doctors for painkiller prescriptions with a program that “locks” Medicaid recipients into using one doctor, one pharmacy and one hospital. And according to this article, the program appears to be having some positive results: by locking in more patients, the state saved $14.8 million from July 2010 through September 2012 in the cost of drugs and doctors’ visits.
The number of “locked-in” Iowa Medicaid recipients has increased sevenfold from 200 in 2010 to 1,430 in January, the article says, a jump that came after Iowa Medicaid started screening patients not for just doctor-filled prescriptions, but for non-emergency visits to hospital emergency rooms.
The state’s prescription drug monitoring program was launched in March 2009, but only one-quarter of Iowa doctors and prescribers are registered to use the database, which includes more than 4.2 million prescriptions annually, the article says.
Prescription painkillers caused 62 deaths in Iowa in 2011, up from just four deaths in 2000, while prescription abuse treatment admissions more than quadrupled from 187 in 1999 to 878 in 2009, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.