Florida’s Orange County moves to control sham pain clinics

By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (BestGrowthStock) – Florida’s Orange County, home to Orlando, on Tuesday joined a growing list of U.S. communities adopting laws intended to stop the spread of sham pain clinics that dole out narcotics to bogus patients.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the number of deaths from overdoses of prescription ovoid painkillers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone, surpassed deaths from either cocaine or heroin in 2007.

“We need to go after the unscrupulous who are doing real harm to real people,” said Orange County Mayor Rich Crotty, just before a unanimous vote by the county commission to adopt the new ordinance.

The Orange County law places a year-long moratorium on the establishment of new pain management clinics, which were defined as businesses advertising pain management services or employing a doctor who primarily engages in treatment of pain and prescribes controlled substances to a majority of patients.

Exemptions were made for new hospitals, surgery practices, businesses affiliated with a medical school, and businesses publicly traded or approved for tax exempt status by the federal government.

The ordinance restricts hours at the 60-odd pain clinics already established to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and prohibits clinics from requiring “cash-only” transactions.

A report issued December 2 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement showed 1,270 deaths in the state attributed to prescription drug overdoses in the first half of 2010, up from 1,157 in the first half of 2009, according to the Orlando Sentinel newspaper.

Law enforcement officers call Florida “ground zero” for prescription drug abuse because of lax state laws, and say people they call “pill-billies” come from states across the country to purchase quantities of drugs.

The mortarium passed with no objections, but there was a plea from resident Fred Brown, who showed commissioners his neck x-rays while explaining the needs of legitimate chronic pain patients.

“There’s a thought that keeps going through my mind: will I be able to keep getting my medication which keeps me stable and enables me to have another day of quality life,” Brown said. He was told legitimate pain specialists should not be adversely impacted.

(Editing by Jerry Norton)

Florida’s Orange County moves to control sham pain clinics