UCF professor awarded grant to study Fla. pill mill law

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CENTRAL FLORIDA —

A University of Central Florida professor has been awarded a national grant to find out if Florida's pill mill law is working.

The illegal sale of prescription drugs like oxycodone was so bad in Florida several years ago that the state got the nickname "Oxy Express."

But with the help of tougher laws, there's an aggressive push to shut down so-called pill mills.

"More and more people are dying from overdoses. Law enforcement is cracking down on this," said UCF Associate Professor Dr. Jacinta Gau.

Gau is about to embark on a two-year study of Florida's pill-mill legislation which was implemented in 2011.

She just received a $250,000 federal grant for her work. She and a team will check to see if wholesalers, pharmacies and physicians are abiding by the lengthy law.

They'll focus on parts of the law like new reporting requirements, improved regulations for pharmacies and a new standard of care which physicians are held to when prescribing pills.

"I hope we are able to speak to how well the law works and what provisions of it might be the most effective," said Gau.

A recent Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports shows the number of deaths caused by oxycodone dropped 18-percent. Overall prescription drug deals in Florida fell by 6.5 percent, but Gau thinks there's more work to be done.

"We need to change public perception and get people to understand that these are very addictive," Gau said.

The professor will begin her work in January. She will submit progress reports and a final report that outlines her findings. She told WFTV modifications to the bill are likely.