By Calvin Palmer
The Guardian newspaper today carried an article about the thousands of people flocking to the pill mills of Florida to obtain the powerfully addictive painkiller oxycodone.
The White House has described the abuse of prescription drugs as the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, pointing out that people were dying unintentionally from painkiller overdoses at rates that exceeded the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and the black tar heroin epidemic of the 1970s combined.
Florida is described as the epicenter of the oxycodone epidemic. Guardian writer Ed Pilkington states that 98 percent of all the nation’s doctors who handle the drug are located in Florida, which “has no comprehensive database recording prescription histories”.
Pilkington goes on: “Even more astonishingly its recently elected governor, the Tea Party favourite Rick Scott, has blocked the introduction of a database on grounds of cost.”
Now, I am no fan of Gov. Rick Scott but I do believe in accurate and fair reporting. I am from the old school of journalism.
Last Friday, if Pilkington had bothered to read or find out, Scott signed a bill aimed at cracking down on clinics that frivolously dispense pain pills.
“Florida will shed its title as the Oxy Express,” he said at a bill signing ceremony in Tampa.
Scott had concerns about the prescription drug monitoring database on the grounds of its effectiveness and privacy. But even he had the good sense to bow to the pressure from elected officials throughout the country to do something about the proliferation of pill mills in Florida.
State Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, one of the advocates for the database, said: “The governor has made a huge turnaround. He has signed a bill today that not only preserves the prescription drug monitoring database. It makes it better.”
The bill tightens reporting requirements to the database from 15 days to seven days, a change critics said the program needed to make it more effective.
The measure also increases penalties for overprescribing oxycodone and other narcotics, tracks wholesale distribution of some controlled substances, and provides $3 million to support law enforcement efforts and state prosecutors.
It also bans most doctors who prescribe narcotics from dispensing them, requiring prescriptions to be filled at certain types of pharmacies.
“The toll our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic has taken in communities nationwide is devastating and Florida is ground zero,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy after Scott signed the bill.
Even as far back as April, while testifying before a congressional committee with Kentucky Gov. Steve Bershear, Scott pledged to address the problem and give up his push to kill Florida’s prescription drug monitoring database.
So just how much research did Pilkington do for his article? Not a lot, it would appear. His article is lazy journalism at best; inaccurate and biased reporting at worst.