In crackdown on mills, pills are usually obtained through prescriptions at major pharmacies like Walgreen’s

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In the crackdown on pill mills in Florida, what is often overlooked is that many of the so-called pill mill pain clinics are merely the first step — obtaining the prescription — in abuse. The actual pills are usually obtained when the prescriptions are filled at a major pharmacy, like Walgreensor CVS.While some pharmacists may take steps to sniff out bad behavior, the sad truth is that pharmacies make more money the more prescriptions they fill.  Even worse, cash payments — the number one red flag behavior–actually enrich the pharmacies disproportionately because pharmacies charge higher rates to those paying in cash.

The  U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is cracking down.  This week, the controlled substance licenses of two CVS pharmacies were revoked after a series of legal hearings and proceedings through the summer upheld the DEA’s findings.

This isn’t the first time mainstream pharmacies have been the focus of inquiry in Florida.  In 2012, Walgreens had 53 pharmacies on the DEA’s Top 100 purchasers of oxycodone in Florida.

In warrants, the DEA states that in just the first two months of 2012, there are 53 Walgreen’s pharmacies listed in the agencies top 100 purchasers of oxycodone, half of them in Florida. That’s compared to zero Walgreen’s pharmacies being on that list in 2009, according to April 7th report by CNN.

In other investigations, Walgreens was a center of scrutiny.  For example, a Walgreens pharmacy in Fort Myers went from selling 95,800 units of oxycodone in 2009 to more than 2.1 million units in 2011 good for 67 percent of all the oxycodone purchased by pharmacies in that same zip code in 2011.

In Arizona, Walgreens paid a $500,000 fine for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Abuse of prescription drugs causes 7 deaths per day in Florida, far more than what is caused by heroin or cocaine.  Passing new laws and implementing new tools for law enforcement can be helpful, but what is ultimately needed is full commitment from all stakeholders in the industry, whether or not it helps their bottom line.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.