“(Florida) went from having 90 of the top 100 sellers of oxycodone in the nation to having less than 10 in a year, according to the DEA,” Olens said. “So these laws have an effect. The charlatans leave.”
Hospital-owned clinics do not have to be licensed, unless they are outpatient clinics and they treat more than half of their patients for pain from nonterminal illness.
Prescription drug abuse causes or contributes to the overdose deaths of 11 Georgians every week. Nationally, the number of prescription drug-related overdoses has surpassed deaths caused by automobile crashes.
The pill mill bill, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, and in the House by Rep. Tom Weldon, R-Ringgold, survived attempts by lawmakers in both chambers to weaken it by allowing others besides doctors to own pain management clinics.
Olens said that was a huge victory, because authorities in Florida found that the problem clinics were the ones owned by investors with no background in healthcare.
An investigation by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in February found that numerous pain clinics were owned by convicted felons, and many of the owners came from Florida fleeing that state’s ramped up enforcement efforts. For example, William Benton and his business partner Malcolm Dwayne Garrett, relocated to Georgia in 2011 after their two clinics in Fort Lauderdale came under heat, according to DeKalb County prosecutors.
The two men opened a clinic in Chamblee, which they later relocated to Sandy Springs. Prosecutors allege the owners made millions selling oxycodone to clients from as far away as Texas and Ohio. Benton and Garrett were indicted in November 2011 on racketeering charges in DeKalb County. They have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial.
Clinics not owned by doctors that were already in business before the law took effect will be grandfathered in. However, those clinics will still be subject to the new regulations and their license can be revoked for failing to abide by them.