Monday, October 08, 2007

The Trouble with Florida

What the %$#@&! is wrong in Florida?!

Maybe you'll ask the same question after reading three stories sent in by intrepid Drug Channels readers:

I'll have a Viagra Chimichanga, extra salsa
La Mexican is a Fort Myers restaurant/pharmacy/check cashier that serves you real Mexican food along with your counterfeit drugs -- mostly fakes from Mexico and Europe. According to the article: "The illegal distribution of prescription drugs is an increasing problem in Southwest Florida, said Larry Long, spokesman for the FDLE in Fort Myers." Overall, we've seen an increase in people obtaining prescription medicines illegally," he said. "People are dying from overdoses of prescription medicines." Senator Byron Dorgan is reportedly going to hold hearings to make sure La Mexican did not use Canadian beef.

#1 in Medicare Fraud
According to a new OIG report, Florida is now the leader in Medicare fraud for HIV/AIDS drugs. (See Aberrant Billing In South Florida For Beneficiaries With HIV/AIDS.) Providers in just three south Florida counties -- Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach -- accounted for 8 percent of Medicare beneficiaries with HIV/AIDS but billed Medicare more than 22 times as much as the entire rest of the U.S.! The OIG glumly notes: "CMS has had limited success in controlling the aberrant billing practices of South Florida infusion therapy providers." Oh.

Still #1 in Diversion!
In August, Florida's Diversion Response Team reported another banner year in its 2006-07 Annual Report. According to the report, the DRT opened 50 new diversion cases from in the 12 months ending June 30, 2007. Yes, that's the first year of Florida's pedigree law. Alas, no report from the year before the pedigree law.


Unfortunately, these are just the two most recent episodes in Florida's shameful drug distribution history.

Think about it. Florida was the setting for Dangerous Doses: A True Story of Cops, Counterfeiters, and the Contamination of America's Drug Supply, an expose of drug diversion by essentially unregulated drug wholesalers. (Great book, especially if you want to know why Florida passed a pedigree law.) AmerisourceBergen (ABC) had its DEA license suspended in Orlando earlier this year. It was recently reinstated.

Apparently, Florida is losing population, prompting The Wall Street Journal to ask: Is Florida Over? Maybe they are fleeing the rampant counterfeits in that swampy state.

Anyone care to defend the sunshine state?


  1. Adam, why the surprise? A cat does not change its stripes. Florida watered down their laws on pedigree and does not require serialization so what do you expect. Just another case of pressure by lobbyists and politicos.

    How about we close Florida and move everyone to North Dakota since it is so pure?


  2. If you want a really great read on Florida's drug distribution system, you only have to look to Vanity Fair. Under their "Crime" segment in May 2005, they detail what it takes to catch ONE trafficker.

    Here is a great line out of the piece:

    "Florida’s pharmaceutical wholesale companies proliferated like rabbits. By 2002, Florida had licensed 1,399 of them—one for every three pharmacies in the state. The wholesalers ranged from trained pharmacists, doctors, and lawyers to criminal kingpins and uneducated street thugs. Some were former drug dealers seeking a safer line of work."

    Source: Vanity Fair, "Bad Medicine," May 2005

  3. Thanks, Jon.

    The Vanity Fair article led to the book Dangerous Doses, which I mention above. Also see my blog post Dangerous Doses Redux from last October.

    BTW, things have improved somewhat in Florida since Katherine's article/book.



    Read this story. Only in Florida can you be arrested for filling a prescription