Florida Governor Rick Scott announced Monday that sales of oxycodone are down 17 percent in the first five months of this year, compared with the same period in 2010. Medical license suspensions in the state are also increasing, according to the Miami Herald. Since March 30, Florida’s Department of Health has issued 160 emergency suspension orders of medical licenses, a 30 percent increase over last year. Almost half of those licenses were suspended for inappropriate prescribing of controlled substances.
The state still faces major challenges in fighting prescription drug abuse, however. The newly released 2010 Florida Medical Examiners Commission Report shows of the 5,647 people in the state who died with one or more prescription drugs in their system last year, prescription drugs were the actual cause of death for 2,710. This represents an 8.9 percent increase from the previous year.
Oxycodone caused the most deaths—1,516—the newspaper reports. That represents a 27.9 percent jump from the previous year. The other top causes of drug deaths were benzodiazepines, methadone, alcohol and cocaine.
At the press conference to announce the new statistics on drug sales and drug deaths, Governor Scott acknowledged this is a personal issue for him and spoke about his brother’s drug problem.
In June, Governor Scott signed into law a bill designed to cut down on prescription drug abuse by controlling “pill mills” in the state. The law authorizes the creation of a prescription-drug monitoring database to reduce doctor-shopping by people looking to collect multiple painkiller prescriptions. The legislation also imposes new penalties for physicians who overprescribe medication and imposes stricter rules for operating pharmacies.
Federal authorities estimate that 85 percent of oxycodone is sold in Florida. Many of the sales are to people who come from out of state and then resell the pills illegally.
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