Doctors Feelgood

Well, if I had any plans to move to Florida in order to become a glorified drug dealer, it looks like that option has gotten less appealing.  From the New York Times:

Florida has long been the nation’s center of the illegal sale of prescription drugs: Doctors here bought 89 percent of all the Oxycodone sold in the country last year. At its peak, so many out-of-staters flocked to Florida to buy drugs at more than 1,000 pain clinics that the state earned the nickname “Oxy Express.”

But with the help of tougher laws, officials have moved aggressively this year to shut down so-called pill mills and disrupt the pipeline that moves the drugs north. In the past year, more than 400 clinics were either shut down or closed their doors.

Prosecutors have indicted dozens of pill mill operators, and nearly 80 doctors have seen their licenses suspended for prescribing mass quantities of pills without clear medical need.

New laws are also cutting off distribution. As of July, Florida doctors are barred, with a few exceptions, from dispensing narcotics and addictive medicines in their offices or clinics. As a result, doctors’ purchases of Oxycodone, which reached 32.2 million doses in the first six months of 2010, fell by 97 percent in the same period this year. The ban was phased in beginning last October, with a limit on the number of pills a doctor could dispense.

I have a hard time finding words to adequately convey the depths of my contempt for the “doctors” who work these pill mills.  While I can’t say I’m full of professional respect for the doctors who staff California’s marijuana clinics, weed just simply doesn’t destroy lives the way that opiates can.  Oxycodone is a much more addictive substance, and these people are abusing their licenses in a most appalling way.That said, I couldn’t help but recall Burt’s recent post about the horrifying consequences of heroin interdiction in Russia.  (Heroin addicts unable to find their drug of choice have turned to an incredibly toxic substitute.)  This is obviously the outcome of choice:

Treatment centers are also seeing more addicts seeking help. “We have patients walking in the door that cannot afford prescription drugs any more,” said Dr. Barbara Krantz, the chief executive and medical director of Hanley Center, a large private treatment clinic in Palm Beach County.

However, what about the (presumably large) number of addicts who don’t want to enter a treatment center?  I wonder if cutting off their supply will lead some of them to turn to heroin.  The article also makes it clear that the “doctors” in Florida are the primary source for narcotics for people in many other states, particularly Kentucky.  I fear that the new stricter laws and enforcement will have unintended, far-reaching consequences.  While it may remove frankly criminal “physicians” from the “practices,” where they violate the Hippocratic oath on a daily basis, if the goal is to stop the abuse of Oxycodone I worry that it may simply make the addicted more desperate and likely to make even more dangerous choices.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.