Bill Addresses Rise of Pill Mills in Georgia

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The Georgia legislature is expected to pass a bill this month designed specifically to address a growing problem – clinics and doctor’s offices acting as “pill mills.” The practice has ballooned since Florida and Tennessee cracked down. In the classic style of economic supply and demand, only this time for prescription narcotics, as enforcement has increased in neighboring states, the customers and suppliers have moved into Georgia.

A pill mill can be a pain clinic or a doctor’s office that over-prescribes medications without rendering proper, or thorough medical care. In extreme examples, patients simply show up with cash, claim some relevant history and get the prescription they want – without the trouble of even a physical exam. In Georgia, the Drugs and Narcotics Agency estimates a jump from “almost none” a few years ago to more than 150 now.

One of the ways that law enforcement tracks who may be writing prescriptions inappropriately is by tracking which doctors are writing for which medications. This only works when a doctor is tied to a particular group of patients. One practice clinic owners use to maneuver past this check is to rotate doctors through different locations so that no single, or group of patients, gets too many prescriptions from the same physician.

Some of the new rules would be: Only physicians could own clinics; the Georgia Medical Board would be granted oversight authority; anyone convicted of a felony would be prohibited from running a clinic. This adds to the narcotics database passed last year designed to catch over-prescribing through prescription tracking.

The new legislation would also allow sharing of information about pain clinics between states and between government agencies. This is sometimes prohibited now on privacy grounds. The more restrictive licensing would also help by limiting the “here today, gone tomorrow” that some have used to avoid scrutiny. By having to apply for, and get a license approved before opening, this practice would be stopped.

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