Despite new laws, Florida still fuels ‘pill pipeline’ to Kentucky
If you thought Florida’s recent moves to stop the “pill pipeline” to Kentucky have worked, think again. “Cash-only clinics continue to operate throughout the Sunshine State, with doctors indiscriminately doling out prescriptions for such drugs as oxycodone and Xanax, often after little more than a cursory physical examination or a glance at an old MRI scan,” Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal reports from Fort Lauderdale. (C-J photo by Kylene Lloyd: Florida addict Bree Saghy shoots up crushed oxycodone, for which she has a prescription)
Florida has “new laws that forbid felons from owning clinics, strengthen penalties for doctors who over-prescribe painkillers and tighten rules for prescriptions and pain-treatment regimens,” Ungar writes for the Louisville newspaper. “But anti-drug activists and officials worry they don’t go far enough, that pain-clinic operators, for example, will continue to charge hundreds of dollars in fees to customers or send them to associated pharmacies that may give the clinics a share of the profits — and Kentucky will keep paying the price. Local law enforcement and drug-policy officials estimate that 60 percent of Kentucky’s illicit pills come from Florida. . . . Police in Hazard, Ky., say there are neighborhoods in that Appalachian city where nearly every other household includes an addict or a dealer, and Deputy Chief Joseph Engle lays the blame squarely on Florida’s pain clinics, calling the doctors who allegedly fuel the trade ‘murderers.'”
The C-J devotes most of its Sunday front page and four inside pages to the issue. To read it and view videos online, click here. UPDATE, Oct. 17: A second installment takes most of the front plus two pages inside; there’s also an interactive map and video narrative from Ungar; click here for the whole series.