Authorities swept pain clinics in four counties Tuesday, seizing thousands of pills from doctors who are no longer authorized to dispense them.
The Florida Department of Health, Regional Drug Enforcement Strike Force and Florida Department of Law Enforcement fanned out to 24 locations, including three in Palm Beach County, and took away pain drugs such as oxycodone from doctors who, under a new state law that went into effect last week, no longer can hand them out.
Under the new law, clinic doctors can only write prescriptions for pain drugs, which now must be filled at pharmacies. Any pills in their possession must be returned to distributors or given to the state to be destroyed. For the past month, the health department has been notifying doctors not authorized to dispense pain pills to dispose of them.
“We certainly have a lot of the practitioners’ attention,” Sunrise Police Department Chief John Brooks said at a media conference Tuesday afternoon announcing the sweep.
The strike forces seized about 9,500 pills from a clinic at 3385 Burns Rd., in Palm Beach Gardens, about 7,800 from a clinic at 3251 N. Federal Highway, in Boca Raton, and about 4,800 from a clinic at 1403 W. Boynton Beach Blvd., in Boynton Beach.
The strike force also targeted clinics in Miami Dade, Broward and Monroe counties. In all, about 40,000 pills were seized.
No arrests were made and none of the clinics were shut down, officials said.
“It’s a new day, a new chapter in this fight,” Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office Capt. Eric Coleman said. “We’ll keep going.”
The Florida Department of Health called on the law enforcement agencies to target clinics and doctors that ordered at least 2,000 pain pills a month this year or have suspicious histories.
Coleman said doctors can charge patients about $275 for each appointment at which pain pills are prescribed, adding up to about $50,000 a week.
“You can make a handsome living,” Coleman said.
The law also authorized a prescription drug-monitoring database that Gov. Rick Scott initially opposed as a waste of money and an invasion of privacy.
About one person dies every 27 hours from an accidental overdose of prescription pain killers, Coleman said.