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Sheriff Calls for 1-Year Pill-Mill Freeze in Flagler Through County and City Ordinances

| November 11, 2010

florida pill mills

Florida snacks.

Around 7 p.m. Wednesday a Palm Coast woman called sheriff’s deputies to report a robbery. The robber was her boyfriend. The couple had gone to an Orlando drug store, likely a pill factory, to fill out a prescription for Oxicodone, the pain killer. The woman told deputies that she’d promised to give half the pills to her companion when they were back in Palm Coast. When they stopped at a Bank of America ATM on Palm Coast Parkway, the man pulled out a box cutter, took the pills, and drove off in the woman’s vehicle, according to the Flagler County Sheriff.

The vehicle was later returned to the parking lot by an unknown woman.

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There was a slight silver lining in the story: the couple had to travel to Orlando to get its hands on those pills. Unless regulations are strengthened, pill-popping individuals or traffickers in prescription drugs, now a leading form of drug addiction, especially in Florida, may not have to go far for long to get their pills.

Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming is warning that pill factories are making their way up from South Florida. He’s asking the Flagler County Commission to pass an ordinance imposing a one-year moratorium on new pill factories in the county. The commission takes up the proposal at its Nov. 15 meeting. The sheriff is also asking cities to do the same: the Flagler Beach City Commission considers that proposal on Nov. 18.

“We’re at an epidemic in the United States with Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Xanax,” Fleming said at a town hall meeting at the Flagler County Library Wednesday evening. “We have seven people die every month in the state of Florida from overdose on one of these pills.”

The sheriff was low-balling the actual numbers: According to the latest report by the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, some 8,600 deaths in Florida last year involved at least one prescription drug, a 20 percent increase over the previous year, with much of the increase due to a spike in oxycodone addiction. In Flagler County’s district, which includes St. Johns and Putnam counties, 22 deaths were attributed to oxycodone last year.

Sheriff Fleming at Wednesday's town hall meeting.
(© FlaglerLive)

“What we’ve seen in the last year or so, and the state Legislature has yet to take any action on it, other than proposing legislation where they limit the amount of pills a pharmacist or a doctor can write after he writes the first one, is that we have—we call them pill factories, mostly in South Florida. Somebody goes down there with five or six prescriptions, picks up 60 pills at a clip, and then they sell them on the streets for about $20 to $25. Now they’re starting to move further north. Volusia County is starting to get inundated with them, Broward County is inundated with them.”

They’re in Flagler County, too, the sheriff said. “Currently we have three that we would call pill factories in our county.” He named them: Lou Salvagio, Robert Fruehan, and a multi-doctor pain management clinic next to Florida Hospital Flagler. The three, the sheriff said, are “technically legit, but I don’t want to see other ones come in the county.”

Fleming described a “classic” illegal pill mill in Daytona Beach : “It had a doctor’s office, it had an MRI, so you’d go in to the doctor’s, you do an MRI, you make money on that, then he’d write your prescription and you’ll walk out and walk right next door into a pharmacy that was his brother filling prescriptions.” The pill mill was shut down.

“So I’ve asked the county commission to put a moratorium on them for one year. That will give enough time for state Legislators to come up with a bill that’s strong enough to prohibit these things unless they have very, very strict guidelines.”

A law designed to regulate pill mills went into effect on Oct. 1. It limits pill-dispensing to a few days’ supply for anyone paying cash or by credit card, and forbids pain clinics from advertising that they sell pain pills. More stringent regulations due to take effect in December—a statewide database designed to prevent doctor-shopping and stop pill mills—is on hold because of bid disputes between companies seeking to develop the system. So Florida, for years the only state not to have a prescription-drug monitoring system, continues to be the nation’s leading pill-mill.

Florida’s existing law is being challenged on constitutional grounds by pain management clinics. It’s not clear how broad or effective an anti-pill mill ordinance can be locally. “I’ve asked the county, they’re looking at right now and they’ve agreed with me, we can do it for a year,” Fleming said. “We’re going to put a freeze.”

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20 Responses for “Sheriff Calls for 1-Year Pill-Mill Freeze in Flagler Through County and City Ordinances”

  1. tootalljoan says:

    As for my comment, yes there should be a database so that pharmacies can see if a person has recently had a prescription filled. This way the abusers won’t be able to go from pharmacy to pharmacy refilling more than the allotted amount during a certain period of time. I don’t recall saying anything about plastering people’s private medical records all over the place.

    Also, I said nothing in regard to ALL doctors. I said the doctors who are abusing their position are the ones that need to prosecuted.


  2. Emily says:

    I have seen to many lives destroyed by pain pill addictions. The death of a friend’s son, death of my childrens’ former classmates, people losing thier jobs and all they own.. The addiction affects the addict and their family and friends. I totally support the moritorium and the data base. My own child has been struggling with pain pill addiction and it is so painful for our family. I saw his Walgreen’s prescription print out,. 220 pain pills prescribed in 1 month. The doctors who prescribe and the pharmacy that fill these prescriptions need to be held responsible also. The response from the Walgreen’s pharmacist was, “If the doctor prescribes them we fill them.” My response, ” Really? Do you really think someone can take that many pills in one month and live? and again the response, “If the doctor prescribes it we fill it.”


  3. Amy Odom says:

    I have went to Dr Salvagio many many times and he is a wonderul Doctor/Chiro he cares deeply for his patients and he is not the type of person to run a pill mill! He wants to help people feel better, the last thing he would do is be part of a pill mill!
    I think people’s concerns should be about the rumor mill that is making the good doctors look bad and it takes the focus off the ones that need to be stopped!
    Also, it isnt so much as the pill mills that are causing the problems, its about the patients who take more than they should instead of the doctors orders, then they form a addiction and the doctors get blamed for it.
    People become doctors to help people and to make them better, not to make them worse and become junkies!
    Stop putting the blame on the doctors, start looking at the ones who abuse their prescriptions instead of directed!


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