In 2003, Florida lawmakers passed a bill making it a felony to go to more than one doctor in an effort to secure multiple prescriptions for powerful pain medications such as oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and morphine before a refill on the first prescription was due. The legislature also passed what people commonly call the "doctor shopping" law in 2009, making it a crime for a patient to withhold information from a doctor that the patient received a prescription for a controlled substance of the same type that the patient is seeking from the doctor from another physician within 30 days prior to the consultation. While these laws have been on the books for some time, Florida authorities have recently begun vigorously enforcing them in an effort to curb the rising problems of so-called Pill Mills and prescription drug addiction in the state.
The doctor shopping statute included a provision to establish a state-wide database to help officials enforce the law. When a person goes to a pharmacy to fill a prescription of one of the medications that lawmakers have identified as addictive, the pharmacy employees enter the data into the database. The computer flags those who fill a new prescription from a different doctor before the refill is scheduled for an older prescription and alerts police.
One of the goals of the law was to reduce the number of overdoses from these medications. Over 2,000 people die in Florida each year overdosing on prescription pain medication. That is more than triple the number of deaths that result from overdoses of illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.
Florida lawmakers also intended the doctor shopping statute to be a tool to fight the proliferation of Pill Mills - pain clinics that dispense their own drugs. South Florida has the highest number of pain clinics per capita in the nation. Authorities believe that doctors at such clinics prey on those who are addicted to medications, looking to make quick money. They prescribe addictive pain medications at five times the national average and people from across the country come to Florida seeking pills. The federal government has begun to investigate these Pill Mills as well, prosecuting seven Florida doctors in federal court in the last year for drug trafficking and sentencing four of them to over 25 years each in prison.
Doctor shopping is a third degree felony and those charged with the offense face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Florida authorities are serious about stepping up enforcement of doctor shopping laws. Those who are battling addictions to these powerful medications could easily find themselves facing formidable legal charges. If you or a loved one has been charged with doctor shopping, do not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help ensure the best possible outcome in the case.