Several years ago, law enforcement agencies throughout Florida joined forces with the Drug Enforcement Administration to crack down on over 250 facilities — or “pill mills” — where health care professionals were allegedly selling large amounts of prescription narcotics in exchange for sizeable amounts of cash.
While these efforts proved effective in helping reduce the flow of illegal drugs and the number of prescription drug-related overdoses in the state, which the DEA said at one time reached as high as 11 per day, state and federal law enforcement officials didn’t stop there.
Indeed, physicians in the Sunshine State were essentially banned from dispensing prescription narcotics directly to patients and drug wholesalers were hit with large fines, while hydrocodone products (i.e., Vicodin) were assigned the more stringent classification as Schedule II drugs by the DEA.
According to many physicians and pharmacists, this state of affairs has now caused very real problems for patients suffering from legitimate — and painful — medical conditions.
Specifically, drug wholesalers are concerned about incurring more fines and therefore limiting the amount of prescription narcotics they are selling to pharmacies, a situation that is resulting in pharmacies having to ration their otherwise limited supplies or, even worse, being unable to fill prescriptions.
In addition, some of the big-chain pharmacies are now actively turning away patients out of fear of possible punishment by state or federal officials, making many otherwise legitimate patients with nowhere to turn and feeling unduly accused of having a drug problem.
For its part, the DEA claims that it isn’t interfering with medical care, isn’t setting limits on wholesalers and isn’t targeting pharmacies. Indeed, it points out that only 23 of Florida’s 4,902 pharmacies have had their licenses revoked since 2011 and that these all involved establishments committing brazen violations.
It will be interesting to see how this unfortunate situation resolves itself. In the meantime, here’s hoping those patients with real afflictions are able to access the medications they need.
If you are facing any sort of drug charges related to prescription drugs, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to explore your options and ensure your rights are fully protected.