pill mills

Florida's 'Pill Mills' Were A Gateway To The Opioid Crisis

Jul 22, 2019

Florida survives on tourism, but a decade ago thousands of visitors made frequent trips to the state not to visit its theme parks or beaches. Instead, they came for cheap and easy prescription painkillers sold at unscrupulous walk-in clinics.

A Palm Beach Post investigation has uncovered Florida's role in igniting the country’s heroin epidemic in 2011.


The state’s repeated failure to control its own prescription drug problem would eventually lead to more addicts turning to heroin not only on Florida, but in other states around the country. 

Lawmakers are pushing a measure encouraging the use of abuse-resistant opioids. 


The Florida Legislature’s crackdown on so-called pill mills saved more than 1,000 lives over three years.

Wikimedia Commons

A jury convicted Delray Beach physician Dr. Barry Schultz last week on 55 counts of distributing narcotics to pain clinic patients, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Samples of medical marijuana shown on display
Wikimedia Commons

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who loudly opposed a medical marijuana measure that appeared on the 2014 ballot, is staying on the sidelines this time around.

Since Florida implemented its prescription drug monitoring program four years ago, prescription overdose deaths have dropped by 25 percent. That’s according to a new University of Florida study.

But the new state regulations have also had an unintended effect — people who have a legitimate need for pain medication are having a harder time finding it.

Some Florida lawmakers say the state’s pill mill crackdown has gone too far. Florida used to be known as a pill mill capital but the state cracked down on unscrupulous clinics, leaving legitimate patients to struggle with getting prescriptions filled.

State Change Could Help Patients Get Pain Medications

Oct 8, 2015
Associated Press

Reacting to pleas from desperate patients unable to get pain medications, the Florida Board of Pharmacy on Wednesday approved a rule change aimed at training pharmacists to change their mindset about prescriptions for controlled substances.

Feds, Pharmacies Grapple With Pain Pill Dilemma

Oct 2, 2015
Associated Press

Susan Langston wiped away tears as she spoke of a 40-year-old woman who had struggled with cancer for a decade before a Fort Myers pharmacy refused to fill a prescription for pain medication.

Florida is still grappling with the pill mill crisis of four years ago.  But with the problem of too many prescriptions receding in the rear-view mirror, the problem now is too few.

A new study from Johns Hopkins University shows Florida’s pill mill crackdown worked in its first year.

After becoming the epicenter for prescription opioid abuse, the state passed tougher laws for pain management clinics. The state also implemented a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program which gave healthcare professionals a better look at patients’ prescription drug histories.The laws went into full affect in 2011. Researchers at Johns Hopkins looked at hundreds of millions of prescriptions from the year before and after.

Broward Sheriff's Office

A South Florida man who owned pain management clinics in Fort Lauderdale and Tucker, Georgia was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in a $15 million pill mill operation, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports.

CVS Health has agreed to pay a $22 million settlement for the unlawful distribution of prescription drugs. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reached the settlement after a federal crackdown at two Sanford pharmacies.

The investigation was part of a larger crackdown three years ago on Florida’s pill mills. U.S Drug Enforcement Administration agents talked with pharmacy employees and found that among other things, customers would come in asking for oxycodone using slang street terms.

  The owners of the Tampa Bay Wellness Centre and affiliated VIP Pharmacy are testifying against each other and other pill mill doctors to get their own sentences reduced, The Tampa Tribune reports.

'Telehealth' Compromise Moving Closer

Feb 18, 2015
Florida Senate

 Key senators said Tuesday they are moving closer to agreement with the House on a plan to bolster the use of telemedicine --- or, as lawmakers call it, "telehealth."

The Senate Health Policy Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a telemedicine bill (SB 478) that included changes intended to bring the Senate and House versions closer together.

Florida Board of Medicine

A Tallahassee court reaffirmed the Florida Board of Medicine’s decision to revoke a Bonita Springs cardiologist’s medical license, the Naples Daily News reports. 

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

A pain management doctor in Pinellas Park is facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison after three people died because he prescribed them drugs they didn’t need, the Tampa Bay Times reports.  

A Tampa pharmacist doing time for his role in a pill mill operation is trying to retain his license, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Christopher Switlyk, who is serving five years in federal prison, has appealed sanctions from the Florida Board of Pharmacy and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which had excluded him from participating in federal programs such as Medicare for 20 years, the Times reports.

St. Johns County Commissioner Bill McClure says he is cooperating with the state investigation of his Medi+M.D. clinics that began last Thursday, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Thirty-year prison sentences were given to the husband-and-wife owners of what officials say was Tampa’s largest pill mill operation, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

New laws and a continued crackdown on corrupt doctors helped reduce Florida’s prescription drug deaths significantly a few years ago. However, a new plague has broken out and needs to be addressed as well, the Orlando Sentinel editorial board reports.

The owner of three Jacksonville multimillion dollar pill mills has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Prosecutors said Zachary Timothy Rose, 29, took advantage of people with drug addictions.

  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is applauding Florida’s crackdown on “pill mills” in its most recent Vital Signs report.

A Hillsborough County doctor faces up to 25 years in prison for his role in pill mills, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Monday.

Dr. Paul Awa was convicted of conspiracy to traffic more than 28 grams of oxycodone. Bondi said Awa provided only cursory physical exams of patients before prescribing the addictive painkillers at three different offices, as part of the J.W. Wellness pain management clinic. The patients were from across Florida, as well as out of state, Bondi said.

A former Memorial Hospital surgical tech is suing Memorial Healthcare System and a long-time Hollywood surgeon who she says sexually harassed and groped her and other women at the South Broward facility for years.

A Tampa General Hospital nurse was charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident on Saturday.  Police say Danielle Nichole Goeller was driving a car that hit a pedestrian who had stepped into the roadway, but allegedly left the scene, according to the Tampa Bay Times

After being alerted of a damaged Volvo in a nearby parking lot, Tampa police arrested Goeller, the Times reports.

A federal judge in West Palm Beach has sentenced a South Florida doctor to more than six years in prison on money laundering charges related to her prescription of millions of oxycodone pills and other narcotics.

Also sentenced in the case Friday, a fellow doctor who received 18 months behind bars on similar charges. Both physicians were part of a broad 2010 investigation into so-called "pill mills".

On both Florida coasts, the toll of oxycodone continues, as a doctor is arrested and clinic owners are convicted.

The Boca Raton Police arrested Dr. Harry Kesten, 47, owner of Quick Test Labs in Delray Beach, after he tried to buy $300 worth of oxycodone pills, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. Police used an undercover informant to tape a phone conversation, then set up the fake buy.

A Tampa-area man has been sentenced to 34 years in  prison for sex trafficking  on Wednesday after a federal judge ruled that it wasn’t necessary for the defendant to physically beat those under his control, the Tampa Bay Times reports (paywall alert).