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Bondi touts pill mill crackdown as drug deaths drop

In 2012, 805 fewer people died in Florida from drug-related deaths, a 9 percent drop from the prior year that includes decreases in deaths related to methadone, hydrocodone, and cocaine, according to a new report by the Florida Medical Examiners.

It’s the first full year of reporting since “Statewide Drug Enforcement Strike Force” teams were created in March 2011 to crackdown on so-called “pill mill” doctors who over-prescribe powerful drugs.

The FDLE reports that is has had a 50 percent reduction in oxycodone-related deaths in the last two years.

“Our relentless effort is finally starting to pay off,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi during a Tuesday news conference. “When I took office, there were more than 7 Floridians dying a day from prescription drug overdoses….of the top 100 oxycodone dispensers, these are doctors, 98 of them lived in Florida. Now we’re down to zero...There used to be pill mills on every corner and now they’re virtually gone.”

Of Florida’s 178,000 deaths in 2012, 8,330 were drug-related deaths. The report distinguishes between drug caused death and whether the drug was merely present at the time of death. The vast majority of cases had more than one drug occurrence.

The medical examiners were asked to distinguish between whether the drugs “caused” the death or were “present” in the body at the time of death. A drug is indicated as the cause only when the medical examiner determines the drug triggered the death. In those deaths where the drugs are present, the drug may not have played a role in death.

Deaths caused by oxycodone were down 41 percent. Deaths caused by cocaine dropped 9.1 percent.

Oxycodone was present in 33 percent fewer deaths, followed by a 9.9 percent drop in prescription pills, 21.4 percent drop in methadone, an 11.4 percent drop in hydrocodone and an 8.7 percent drop in cocaine.

Despite the plunge, oxycodone still caused the most deaths, with 735. The next most lethal were alprazolam, 639; ethyl alcohol, 573; cocaine, 549; methadone, 512; morphine, 415; hydrocodone, 244; and diazepam, 205.

From May 2011 to Aug. 26, 2013, the seven regional Drug Enforcement Strike Forces have made 4,226 arrests (including 76 doctors), and seized 876,220 pharmaceutical pills, 146 vehicles, 578 weapons and $11 million in ill-gotten gains while closing 254 clinics.

Heroin occurrences increased 88.7 percent and deaths caused by heroin increased by 89.5 percent.