Stricter Laws Reduce Prescription Drug Overdose Deaths in Florida

Published Online: Friday, July 11, 2014
Deaths caused by prescription drug overdoses have dramatically decreased in Florida after the state tightened prescribing laws and implemented other enforcement actions to reduce prescribing for opioid painkillers and other controlled substances, according to a report in the July 1, 2014, issue of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity & Mortality Weekly Report.

From 2003 to 2009, the number of deaths caused by drug overdoses increased by 61% in Florida, with particularly large increases seen in the number of deaths caused by oxycodone and alprazolam. To reduce the number of deaths, the state enacted various laws and actions to curb inappropriate prescribing.

Pain clinics using controlled substances were required to register with the state and to comply with additional regulations implemented in 2010. In 2011, statewide raids were conducted, resulting in arrests, seizures, and the closures of several pain clinics. Later that year, the state legislature prohibited physician dispensing of schedule II or III drugs from their offices, and pharmacies were required to report dispensing of the medications to the new prescription drug monitoring program. In addition, regulation of wholesale drug distributors was expanded.

These efforts resulted in a 16.7% decrease in the number of overall drug overdose deaths during 2010 to 2012. Death rates for prescription drug overdoses decreased by 23.2%. Deaths caused by oxycodone decreased by 52.1%. The temporal associations between the enforcement actions and declines in overdose deaths suggest that the initiatives played a significant role in reducing overdoses in the state.

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