Research shows 'pill mill' crackdowns saved thousands

Sheryl Alkire makes no bones about saying her 32-year-old daughter, Stacy, cheated death.

"At the time, I had said someone was going to die in (her) house," said Alkire.

From 2008 to 2010, Stacy's life was dominated by a getting and taking dozens of pain pills a day. Eventually, Pinellas deputies caught her trying to fill fake prescriptions.

"They get very numb," said Alkire. "They have no emotions."

But in 2010 and 2011, federal and state crackdowns led to the arrest of clinic owners, lengthened time between prescriptions and banned doctors from giving out pills on site.

"There are people, now alive in Florida, who wouldn't be had the state not taken action," said Daniel Webster of Johns Hopkins University.

Johns Hopkins researchers compared Florida with North Carolina, which before the crackdown had similar overdose rates.

After the crackdown, the rate of overdose deaths in Florida dropped, while in North Carolina, the rate was essentially unchanged.

"The doctors - we called them criminals wearing white coats - couldn't sit in a strip mall and write prescriptions for 400 pills that were killing our families," said Bondi.

Johns Hopkins researchers used statistical models to say 1,029 lives were saved over the last three years.

Bondi says it's proof the effort was effective.

"We knew we were losing seven Floridians a day," she said.

Alkire's daughter's post-pain-pill life is not without challenges, but at least Alkire knows Stacy is here to fight, for herself and her own children.

"Addiction isn't like you go to rehab and get better," said Alkire. "It's a lifelong fight for these people."

Along with the crackdown in Tallhassee, the Drug Enforcement Administration arrested nearly 80 pill mill owners and staff members.

Johns Hopkins says that had a big effect, along with the seizure of $20 million in assets, because it limited the readily available supply.