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Correction: Pain Clinics 1st Ld Writethru story

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm •  Published: February 22, 2013

Weldon retorted that several neighboring states, including Florida, have the same physician-only ownership requirement. Those rules, he said, have driven out many abusive, non-physician firms.

"We want to control who owns these clinics," Weldon answered to Roberts. "That's a shot to the heart for how organized crime operates these businesses."

Without the law, he said, all enforcement is left to federal authorities. Their resources, Weldon said, are better focused up the supply chain, leaving local law enforcement to enforce state laws addressed at the retail distribution.

In January, a federal grand jury indicted Florida-based owners and a Duluth physician for using a Lilburn pain clinic to sell narcotics to addicts and dealers. The indictment alleges that the owners were not medical professionals and that they directed a physician employee to write prescriptions to customers who were not legitimate patients. Many of the recipients live outside Georgia, according to the government's case.

Lilburn Police Chief Bruce Hedley told lawmakers at a committee hearing earlier this month that he had no recourse to address the problems at the clinic other than to pressure federal authorities.

In separate action Tuesday, the House clarified how optometrists can administer hydrocodone, an opium-based pain killer.

Optometrists have previously been able to administer the drug. But a federal regulatory change reclassified hydrocodone as a more serious narcotic. That requires Georgia to tweak its law in order for optometrists to continue dispensing the drug.

House Bill 235 states that the eye-care professionals could give hydrocodone only for eye pain and for no more than 48 hours without consulting the patient's physician.

The proposal passed 161-2.