Pain-clinic bill on way to governor
By Jim Saunders
4/30/2010 © Health News Florida
State senators gave final approval on Thursday to a bill that will increase regulation of pain-management clinics and try to curb drug abusers' access to large amounts of controlled substances.
The Senate voted 37-0 to approve the bill, a day after the House also supported it unanimously. The measure now goes to Gov. Charlie Crist for his signature.
Lawmakers said a key part of the bill will bar pain-clinic doctors from dispensing more than 72-hour supplies of controlled substances to patients who pay with cash, checks or credit cards. Patients could still get more than three-day supplies if payment is made through insurance policies or workers-compensation coverage.
The bill is trying to stop abusers and traffickers who go to clinics, pay with cash and leave with large quanties of painkillers such as oxycodone. The ease of getting drugs at Florida clinics has drawn people from states such as Ohio and Kentucky --- a situation described by one House member as the "Flamingo Express.''
"This will go to the heart of the pill-mill problem,'' said Sen. Andy Gardiner, an Orlando Republican who has worked on the pain-management issue.
Doctors' groups fought an outright ban on dispensing more than 72-hour supplies, arguing that it would prevent some physicians from legitimately providing medications to patients. But Jeff Scott, general counsel of the Florida Medical Association, said this week that his group supports the bill's "targeted approach,'' which he said would not unfairly harm legitimate physicians.
The wide-ranging bill would increase regulation and penalties for pain-management clinics. Also, it would prevent clinics from advertising or promoting the use and sale of controlled substances --- a practice that lawmakers say has become widespread in South Florida.