WASHINGTON — The governors of Florida and Kentucky urged Congress on Thursday to help states fight the rise of so-called "pill mills" and the abuse of prescription painkillers hurting their states' communities.
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told lawmakers that the illegal distribution of prescription drugs has exploded in their states in recent years despite efforts to shut them down and their states needed help.
"This is a national problem that demands national solutions," said Beshear, a Democrat.
A House panel examining prescription drug abuse heard from the governors, law enforcement and family members of addicts intent on slowing down the nation's fastest-growing form of drug abuse. Prescription drug abuse has been elusive because 70 percent of people report getting pain killers from a friend or relative and the drugs are perceived to be safer because they are made by drug companies and dispensed by pharmacies.
Many states lack databases used to detect pill mills or patients who shop for prescriptions among multiple doctors.
Much of the problem centers in Florida. Nearly all the top 100 doctors dispensing oxycodone nationally are based in the Sunshine State and more doses of oxycodone are dispensed in Florida than the rest of the nation.
Scott, a Republican elected last year, said Florida was coordinating its law enforcement to target physicians and pharmacies that improperly dispense the painkillers. "Doctors who have forsaken their commitment to people's health in exchange for the quick buck of unethical and criminal dispensing must be put to an end," Scott said.
Lawmakers in Florida are considering legislation to implement a database to monitor prescriptions. Scott has raised concerns about patient privacy but recently said he would support a compromise plan to create the system.
Beshear said Kentucky's monitoring system has been in place for a decade but the lack of a database in Florida has led to a pipeline of pills from there to Kentucky, where 82 people die every month from drug overdoses. He urged Congress to provide more money and resources for law enforcement, especially in South Florida, to investigate drug trafficking and to continue funding for a drug monitoring grant program that helps states share data on the problem.
Law enforcement has tried to crack down on the problem. In February, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local police made several arrests in South Florida following a lengthy undercover operation into illegal pill mills.
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