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Florida Oxycodone Deaths Fall 41 Percent In One Year

Pam Bondi

Florida’s top law enforcement and health officials are celebrating a nearly 9 percent decrease in deaths caused by drug overdoses in a single year. Most of the drop is from a decrease in deaths caused by the prescription pain killer oxycodone.

Tuesday’s numbers from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission put a smile on the face of Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong.

“This represents hundreds of Floridians who have lived to see the bright sunshine of another great Florida day,” he said.

Eight-hundred-five fewer Floridians died of drug overdose in 2012 than did the previous year. Accounting for much of that drop were 512 fewer people who died from misusing oxycodone. And Florida Police Chiefs Association President Philip Thorne says it’s all because of regional strike teams that have targeted so-called “pill mills.”

“Since 2011, those teams have closed 254 clinics in the state of Florida, made 4,226 arrests, including 76 doctors,” he said.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi credits the strike teams for the 41 percent drop in oxycodone deaths.

“There used to be pill mills on every corner, and now they’re virtually gone. Now we have some very, very tough laws to be proud of,” she said.

But she acknowledged oxycodone still kills an average of two Floridians every day.

“Parents, kids can still get this stuff out of your medicine cabinet,” she warned.

But despite the decrease in deaths, many chronic pain patients say there’s a downside to the state and federal pill mill crackdown. They claim they suffer unbearable pain because pharmacists are scared to fill their prescriptions.