Local/Regional News
7:15 am
Wed October 17, 2012

Beshear Says New Law Has Curbed Prescription Abuse

FRANKFORT, Ky.  --  Kentucky's new law aimed at cutting prescription drug abuse has already led to the closure of 10 pain management clinics and a significant decrease in the amount of painkillers being prescribed, Governor Steve Beshear said Tuesday.

The governor released figures compiled by his office showing the amount of hydrocodone prescribed in Kentucky dropped 7.5 percent from 20.9 million doses in August of 2011 to 19.3 million doses in August of 2012. Oxycodone prescriptions have declined by 6.4 percent and Xanax prescriptions fell by 9 percent over the same period.

"We knew that this bill would have an immediate impact on thwarting the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs in our state, and the statistics over the last few months are already showing progress," Beshear said in a statement. "But we will not rest. Too many families and communities have been shattered by prescription drug abuse. We will not let up on these doctor shoppers and greed-driven practitioners who continue to supply these poisons to addicted Kentuckians."

Lawmakers passed the prescription drug bill in a special legislative session in April. It went into effect on July 20.

"The abuse of prescription drugs is an epidemic in our state and we have to have strong, enforceable and practical laws and regulations to protect patients," Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure President Preston Nunnelley said.

The law requires all new pain management clinics to be owned by licensed medical providers and have medical directors in charge.

The Office of Inspector General identified 44 pain management clinics in Kentucky this year. Already, 18 of them have closed or have discontinued providing pain management services, including the 10 that shut down altogether.

"Not all pain management clinics are `pill mills' prescribing large volumes of pills to patients with little medical oversight," Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes said. "But the fact that nearly a dozen clinics voluntarily closed down before we could check their patient records and prescribing practices signals to us that they couldn't take the heat."

The law also requires all doctors, dentists, optometrists, registered nurses and podiatrists who write prescriptions to use the state's prescription monitoring system, known as KASPER. The Beshear administration said the number of KASPER users grew from 7,911 to 21,542 in six months.

A year ago, KASPER provided fewer than 3,000 daily reports. That number has now grown to more than 18,000 a day.

"Providers are learning that requesting a KASPER report takes less time than measuring a patient's blood pressure, and the practice is becoming routine instead of a special task," said Mary Begley, inspector general in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "These reports are providing crucial information that can flag a problem user, or may also warn a provider of otherwise unforeseen complications from drug interactions."

Beshear said Kentucky also has seen an increase in the number of criminal cases being investigated.

The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure disciplined 18 doctors for prescribing violations in 2011. But in just the last six months, that board has taken disciplinary action against 33 physicians for prescribing violations.