By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City officials say it could be a model for the entire country: a measure approved in a City Council committee to rein in so-called “pill mills” — medical offices where prescription medications are handed out for non-medical reasons.
The Public Health Committee of City Council today approved a bill that gives new powers to the city’s health department to identify and shut down pill mills.
Nan Feyler, chief of staff to the health commissioner, Dr. Donald Schwarz, says the new law would be a major step.
“We believe that this legislation will provide a substantial tool for removing a truly abusive form of establishments from the city’s neighborhoods,” she told the committee.
The bill was authored by 1st District councilman Mark Squilla, who believes that pill mills prey on those addicted to painkillers.
“What’s sad right now is that more people overdose on prescription medication than illegal drugs,” Squilla noted.
He expects the measure to pass the full Council and be signed by the mayor. At that point, he says, the city’s health department would respond to specific complaints of pill mills operating in neighborhoods.
“This would most likely be complaint driven, either complaints from a councilperson’s office (or a member of) the community calling 311,” Squilla said.
He adds the next challenge is to ensure that the health department and the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspections have the resources — particularly manpower — to take up this new challenge. Feyler believes they are ready:
“I am confident that we have the capacity and the expertise to enforce this bill.”
Medical experts say pill mills can be readily identified: they often take only cash, post guards at the door, and don’t require past medical records.