Pill Mill Law Makes it Tough for Some Patients

By: Erica Rakow Email
By: Erica Rakow Email

More than 2,500 people per year, about seven people every day, die from prescription painkiller abuse in the state of Florida.

The state has a national reputation for lax oversight of pain pill distribution. In an effort to turn that reputation around, state lawmakers enacted a prescription drugs law, creating tough regulations for doctors. So tough, some doctors have stopped prescribing narcotics all together.

The law took effect July 1st, mandating stricter rules for doctors who prescribe and dispense pain medication, requiring them to register and file a number of forms and obtain pain clinic credentials. Some doctors opted not to do that, leaving many patients who truly need the prescription medicine jumping through hoops to deal with their pain.

Mary Lou Lyles and her husband Stefan take prescribed controlled substances every day.

"If we can't get our prescriptions, we would end up in the hospital," said Mary Lou. She suffers from depression, anxiety disorder and PTSD. When she moved to Defuniak Springs from Oregon five years ago, she spent months searching for the right doctor.

"We finally found after numerous times, a great doctor, Niceville family practice, who was willing to prescribe our medications that me and my husband both need in order to stay healthy," said Mary Lou Lyles.

But a few months ago, the Lyles learned they'd have to begin that search again. Dr. Marianna Post at Niceville Clinic would no longer prescribe them their medication It was a choice Dr. Post made after learning about the new state regulations. She has referred more than one-hundred patients to clinics.

"Generally, it was kind of very vague what we need to do as a pain clinic, what would be the rules and so we decided not to go along as a pain clinic," said Dr. Post.

Under the new law, physicians who prescribe controlled substances for chronic, nonmalignant pain, have to label themselves as pain specialists.

"Why would I need to register for a pain clinic if I’m not a pain specialist?," said Dr. Post.

Post says it's a fear common amongst physicians.

"There are very few doctors who are actually willing to prescribe narcotics because it’s been so hard on doctors. There have been a lot of doctors who have been accused and sued for prescribing narcotics so a lot of doctors are actually afraid to do so," said Post.

But in the end, it leaves patients struggling to deal with their pain.

"They're going from doctor to doctor to doctor and unable to get any help. And for us, it’s been very frustrating because I need to tell those patients, I’m sorry I can't help. I can refer you to a pain specialist but I’m not sure pain specialist is going to give you your medication," said Dr. Post.

Many were caught off-guard by the transition and have gone long periods of time without their medicine. Mary Lou considers herself lucky; she went only four days without her medication. But she says lawmakers need to take a second look.

"The people that put this law into place, they might have had good intentions but they did not look into the whole picture. There are other people that take medications that are controlled substances that need them in order to survive and do well in this world," said Mary Lou Lyles.

Dr. Post can still prescribe narcotics to cancer and rheumatoid arthritis patients but must refer anyone else to a pain specialist.

We wanted to ask Attorney General Pam Bondi whether the law has gone too far, but she declined our request for an interview.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by kimberly Location: chicago on May 9, 2012 at 12:15 PM
    If you have not been denied pain meds, why are you posting here? I am part of a group of people with a chronic diagnosed neurological disease that causes severe pain, vomiting, among many other symptoms, and we are often refused pain medications. I agree that there is abuse, but there needs to be a way to screen. This law is not working for the people who are truly suffering.
  • by pain doc Location: fort walton on Feb 23, 2012 at 02:41 PM
    I think the new pain laws are great. Drug abuse and over prescribing primary care doctors have caused a lot of unnecessary deaths. Pain Management doctors are generally board certified in both Anesthesiology and pain medicine and they can appropriately determine who actually needs these medications. As a pain doctor, I regularly prescribe these medications if the patient needs them but in a controlled fashion. I don't have problems with abuse or people dying because I watch them like a hawk. If you are truly suffering then you can get pain medications, that is not the issue. Yes, as pain specialists we do perform procedures and if I feel that a procedure might help my patient then I guide them that way. I require people to attempt things that might resolve their pain. If we have to consider surgery, then it is done. If the patient doesn't want surgery then that is fine but then they don't need the pain meds. The new laws just eliminate people over prescribing and make patients conform to a plan that their pain specialist designs for them. If nothing can be done and all we have is pain medications then that is fine. The new law works well.
  • by Darlene Location: Panama City on Feb 22, 2012 at 01:52 PM
    Three years ago my teenage son pushed me down a flight of stairs and then shot me in the head with his hand gun. Since then I have needed pain meds to make it bearable. I cannot get them now and my son will get out of prison soon.
  • by George Location: PC on Feb 21, 2012 at 04:22 PM
    If someone has a ligit problem with pain and does abuse the medication, then you will have no problem getting your pain medication. If you can drive or ride to locations down south to get pain medication you are an addict and your pain must not be to bad.
  • by Anonymous on Feb 21, 2012 at 02:18 PM
    Even if you do get into a pain management facility. They will do what ever they can to keep from having to prescribe narcotics, even for those with serious medical problems that cause pain. They will try injections, radio frequency neurotomy (destroying a nerve that senses pain, by burning it), prescribing every other medication under the sun that is THOUGHT could POSSIBLY treat pain, including mood altering medications such as Cymbalta, and Neurontin. Some pain doctors might even want to try implantable electronic neuro stimulators, they say the stimulator can basically confuse the nerve's pain signal to the brain, halting the pain sensation. Some people swear by them, some swear at them. It all depends on the doctor and how they want to treat you.
  • by Anonymous Location: Fl on Feb 21, 2012 at 12:17 PM
    Some...? It's made it tougher on any patient under any form of pain management, as well as the doctors. After those news laws took effect my Dr.'s office got loaded with patients from Dr.'s that quit handling pain management. And it was already to the point, many local doctors wouldn't handle pain management, and the ones that did were not only real careful about who they would prescribe to, they were barely willing to give person what they NEED. Especially if you have a back, or a muscular skeletal type problem that maybe surgery can't or hasn't been able to fix, you can't function on near the capacity of your peers without pain management. They can have the MRI's and paperwork documenting & proving your hurt, and almost want to look at you like; "Oh-well."... Prohibition is the problem, want to lower drug use, legalize it. Don't make hurting people suffer because a junkie is going to find a way to get it anyway, they aren't injured.
  • by lila hammer Location: panama city on Feb 21, 2012 at 09:53 AM
    i also suffer from cronic pain and think they should relook at these laws i moved here from IL finally found a dr to give me what was needed only to find out 6 month later he could no longer do it so i had to see a pain spe what there doing with this law is making it hard to find a dr and making money for these so called pain clinics and my wait to see a pain spec is over 2 hours because there so busy a dr can surely see if someone is abusing them they really need to look closley at this new law as its making pain clinics rich and they can pick and choose who they see
  • by Brian Location: Panama City on Feb 21, 2012 at 07:44 AM
    There is something mentally wrong with people who need pain medication all the time when there is no physical problem. Those people need to see a psychologist.
  • by jimmy Location: PC on Feb 21, 2012 at 07:36 AM
    It is getting to the point that cops and their families, doctors and their families and druggies are the only one that can get anything for pain. maybe the people making these socalled laws will be in the same boat some day,but I doubt it since politicians can get anything they want.I know this will not be posted because of censorship. Not one of my comments have ever been posted.
  • by George Location: Panama City on Feb 21, 2012 at 06:08 AM
    Unfortunately, there are people with imaginary pain who feel better if they take something for it. There are others who feel better if they take the narcotic prescription drugs and they do whatever is necessary to get them. Chronic pain without a medical condition that causes it should probably be referred to a different kind of doctor.
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