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States Use Databases to Target “Drug Tourists”

States are using prescription databases to deter “drug tourists” who travel to Florida and other states to load up on prescription painkillers and sell them across state lines.

In one case, a man was arrested with 6,000 oxycodone pills in Connecticut. The man told Drug Enforcement Administration agents he traveled to Florida several times a week to buy large numbers of pain pills, according to USA Today. He said he would carry as many as 8,000 pills each trip, and would bribe airport security officers and police. He and more than a dozen other people made these trips between Connecticut and Florida, selling tens of thousands of pills in the past year.

States are beginning to link their prescription drug databases in an effort to stop drug tourism, the article notes. Missouri and New Hampshire are the only states that have not passed laws to set up prescription drug monitoring programs.

The databases allow doctors and pharmacists to see whether patients have been visiting multiple health care providers to obtain prescription painkillers. Law enforcement officials can use the databases in cases against “pill mills,” clinics that write prescriptions for large amounts of painkillers with little or no examination of patients.

Kentucky and Ohio linked their drug monitoring databases in August. Those states are now working with West Virginia and Tennessee to coordinate databases and investigations.

In June, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a bill designed to cut down on prescription drug abuse by controlling pill mills in the state. The law authorized the creation of a prescription-drug monitoring program. The legislation also imposed new penalties for physicians who overprescribe medication and imposed stricter rules for operating pharmacies.

As a result of Florida’s crackdown on pill mills, some of the clinics’ operators have moved to Georgia. The state has approved a prescription drug monitoring program, but it will not be in effect until 2013.