With a towering mound of pain pills next to him, Florida Gov. Rick Scott yesterday offered a hopeful snapshot from the frontlines of Florida's fight against epidemic prescription drug abuse, reports the Miami Herald. Sales of oxycodone — a pain medication that has plagued Florida as the No. 1 cause of prescription drug deaths last year — are down 17 percent for the first five months of 2011. The news came as the state issued a report that outlined in grim detail the human toll of the abuse.
Deaths caused by prescription drugs last year were up about 9 percent. Of the state's 9,001 drug-related deaths, more than half — about 5,600 — died with one or more prescription medications in their systems. “Over seven people a day are dying of drug overdoses. I have had drug abuse in my family and it's just devastating,'' Scott said. “But there are good things to see. The number of purchases [by pharmacies and practitioners] are down.'' Scott said the state — considered by many as the nation's capital of prescription drug abuse — is aggressively attacking the problem through anti-pill mill legislation, a state-wide law enforcement task force and increased emphasis on the role of doctors, suspending the licenses of those who dole out prescriptions of highly addictive pain killers with little or no medical justification.