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State leaders say prescription drug crackdown working, deaths down

Deaths caused by prescription drugs in Florida have decreased for the first time in nearly a decade, state officials said Wednesday.

Overall, prescription drug deaths fell by about 6 percent in 2011. And deaths caused by oxycodone — an often-abused prescription painkiller — decreased nearly 18 percent, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report.

FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said the report gives Florida many reasons to be proud.

"State and local efforts are paying dividends in the fight against illegal pill mills," Bailey said. "The Drugs and Deceased Report reflects that Florida is moving in the right direction."

Officials attribute the decrease to several legislative and law enforcement efforts that came to a head in 2011.

In July 2011, a new state law forbade most doctors from dispensing prescription painkillers from their offices, and law enforcement ramped up investigations and made high-profile arrests, said Claude Shipley, who worked in the state's Office of Drug Control before Gov. Rick Scott shut it down.

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