Florida's 'pill mill' clinics multiply, drug overdoses climb

MIAMI -- Florida's Broward County has become the painkiller capital of the United States, the notorious home to a cottage industry of storefront pain clinics selling alarming numbers of narcotics and feeding a brazen black market sprawling through the South and New England.

In the last six months of 2008, doctors at Broward's pain clinics handed out more than 6.5 million pills of the potent painkiller oxycodone -- almost four pills for every Broward resident, according to federal data compiled by the Broward Sheriff's Office.

Pills flow by the thousands every day through an ever growing number of clinics offering drugs and prescriptions to walk-in patients at strip malls and nondescript office parks -- some with armed guards stationed by the clinic doors. One Fort Lauderdale clinic has taken over a defunct drive-through fast-food restaurant.

Many clinics lure patients with the promise of drugs sold on site, and with coupons and discounts advertised in the back pages of alternative weekly newspapers, or on bus benches and billboards.

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