Valdosta Daily Times

March 24, 2013

‘Pill mill’ legislation passes

Kay Harris
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The passage of legislation last week to combat the rise of “pill mills" will provide law enforcement with more avenues to close down clinics currently operating and will discourage additional clinics from locating in Georgia.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said Thursday that it’s “a great day for our children” when the State Senate followed the House in approving House Bill 178.

Olens had taken the issue of pill mills as one of his primary causes for the 2013 legislative session, as Georgia was seeing more of the clinics due to the passage of stringent legislation in neighboring states.

“Pill mill operators are nothing more than narcotic traffickers, and we will not tolerate them in our state. H.B. 178 strikes a balance that will allow us to identify and curb bad actors without getting in the way of the many excellent doctors who offer legitimate pain management to patients.”

House Bill 178 is also known as the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act, as it is common for the pill mills to operate under the guise of offering pain management to patients. Physicians and employees at the clinics typically handle a large volume of patients every day, operate on a cash-only basis, and provide only a cursory patient exam, if any, according to information from the Attorney General’s office.

The clinics often dispense the drugs on-site rather than giving patients prescriptions to take to a pharmacy. The drugs considered the most dangerous that are typical of a pill mill include Xanax, Oxycodone, Methodone and Hydrocodone. These four drugs are the cause of more overdose drug deaths in the state than cocaine and methamphetamine combined, according to the AG’s office.

Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress said this area is not immune to the issue, as these so-called clinics have moved across the border from Florida.

“We are looking at several places where this type of activity may be taking place,” said Childress. “This legislation will give more teeth to our current laws.”

While there are legitimate pain-management clinics, according to Olens, the state will now have additional means to combat those that are not.

According to the bill, which is on its way to Gov. Nathal Deal to sign, after July 1, 2013, all pain-management clinics will have to be licensed by the Georgia Composite Medical Board each year. The board will have much broader powers to initiate investigations, work with law-enforcement agencies, deny licenses to clinics, and to establish minimum standards for prescribing controlled substances for pain management.

In addition, once the bill goes into effect, anyone who operates a pain-management clinic in Georgia without obtaining a license will be guilty of a felony.

“I commend the Georgia General Assembly for taking action to curtail the rapid growth of pill mills in Georgia,” Olens said.