In an effort to limit the number of people who go to multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions for the same type of pain medication, Florida law enforcement has begun enforcing a 2003 statute, Florida Statute § 893.13(7)(a)8, that makes it a felony for a person to go to more than one doctor to obtain identical medication before a refill is allowed for the first prescription. Section 893.13(7)(a)8., Florida Statutes (2008), also known as the “doctor shopping” statute, provides that it is unlawful for any person:
To withhold information from a practitioner from whom the person seeks to obtain a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance that the person making the request has received a controlled substance or a prescription for a controlled substance of like therapeutic use from another practitioner within the previous 30 days.
People’s names, whether paying in cash or by insurance, credit card or otherwise, are entered into a data bank that “cross references” the person’s name with the narcotics they purchase. If a person’s name shows that he or she got Lortab’s for instance from pharmacy A on June 4, 2010 using a prescription from Dr. Jones, and then again filled a prescription from Pharmacy B for Lortabs on June 15, 2010 using a prescription from Dr. Smith, law enforcement authorities are notified by the computer system that monitors these purchases and there exists a high probability that law enforcement will attempt to interview and subsequently arrest the person who appears to be doctor shopping. Law enforcement officers may ask the doctor if he or she were aware that the patient was also seeing Dr. Smith and receiving a prescription for Lortabs (or xanax, valium, oxycodone, percoset, hydrocodone (generic Lortabs), etc. prior to the date of the next refill allowed by your prescription. Of course the doctor is not aware of this and the police can then obtain a warrant for the “doctor shopper’s’ arrest on felony charges. Many narcotic type prescription drugs however require a face to face meeting with the doctor on a monthly basis in order for the doctor to refill the prescription. The doctor shoppers in these cases see multiple doctors and go to multiple pharmacies to have their scripts refilled. Florida is also one of the few states that allow these pain clinics to dispense medication themselves.
One of the highest profile cases in recent years dealing with the “doctor shopping” statute referenced above involves right-wing nationally syndicated Rush Limbaugh. If interested you can read the appellate opinion of his case by clinking on this link: Limbaugh v. State. Mr. Limbaugh was represented by the consummate professional Florida attorney Roy Black, Esq.
The policy behind the legislation is supposedly reducing the number of deaths caused by overdosing on drugs. This is a noble purpose, we don’t want people to kill themselves by overdosing of course. The secondary purpose of the bill is to put the “pain pill mills” located primarily in South Florida out of business. From what I understand Broward county has the most pain clinics per-capita in the State of Florida, and, perhaps, in the nation.
The federal government has also been “cracking down” on these clinics. In the last five years in the Pensacola Division of the Northern District of Florida we have had approximately seven doctors prosecuted in Federal Court through FBI investigations; four of these prosecutions have resulted in these doctors receiving 25+ years to life in federal prison. There is a documentary called the Oxycontin Express that portrays these clinics as preying on addicted people. These doctors are primarily interested in making money very quickly and usually in cash. According to the documentary doctors in Florida are prescribing powerful pain medications at five times the national average. See the documentary “The Oxycontin Express” of the proliferation of pain clinics in Southern Florida and Broward County.
Doctors being “pushers” of drugs is the topic of another article written in this blog: Doctors and the Oxycontin crisis in Pensacola, Florida and our Nation.
What law enforcement does not seem to comprehend is that the majority of people who are addicts who obtain pain drugs through these clinics are truly sick people; they come from all walks of life and many began there spiral down to the hell of severe drug addiction because of a chronic injury. It just doesn’t seem like the problem we have as a society is
ever going to be solved if the government doesn’t take a more rehabilitative approach than a punitive approach in these cases. People do not develop the coping mechanisms to live life without drugs while in prison. The 12 step recovery programs say that alcohol or drug abuse is merely a symptom of underlying causes. Efforts must be made to help people who have not learned to cope with the ups and downs of life without escaping their pain or stress with drugs or alcohol. Most recovery experts really don’t distinguish between alcohol and drugs. It’s just that we as a society have chosen to legalize and tax alcohol.
But the purpose of this little article was only to let people know that doctor shopping for pain pills is a serious crime that can result in a very lengthy prison sentence. Please read the article below on the outrageously severe penalties for possession of Lortabs and hydrocodone with a prescription.