Beshear Signs Order To Regulate Prescriptions

Jul 24, 2012

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has signed emergency regulations that require doctors to meet tougher prescription standards in an effort to stop drug abuse.

The rules, which were given to state boards that oversee the medical industry on Friday, were presented to lawmakers Monday and will remain in effect until permanent regulations are adopted.

The Courier-Journal reports that under the order, pain clinics will face more regulations and doctors are required to use the state's prescription drug tracking system.

Some physicians have raised concerns that the order exceeds the original goal of a bill passed by lawmakers, but Beshear said in a prepared statement that his office worked diligently to make sure the emergency regulations match the intent of the bill.

"Everyone's ultimate goal is to reduce the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs, and these regulations are a necessary step in effecting that change," he said. "The regulations are built to protect legitimate patient needs and proper prescribing habits. Only those who abuse the system have anything to fear."

The statute passed by lawmakers didn't spell out new regulations. Instead, it said licensing boards should "police their own industry" and gave them until Sept. 1 to draft a final plan. The governor's action puts measures in place until then.

Lloyd Vest, attorney for the medical licensure board, said the emergency regulations require doctors to search the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system before prescribing new medications including painkillers and some drugs that alter moods, cause weight loss and aid sleep. The regulations also require doctors to search the system every three months afterward as long as treatment continues.

In cases of chronic treatment, doctors must perform a comprehensive physical exam and inquire about a patient's potential for substance abuse, he said.

Those who favor the regulations say they are necessary to quell an epidemic of drug abuse that has spread across the state.

Some doctors, however, are concerned about the reach of the temporary measures.

Steven Stack, an emergency room doctor from Lexington, said Monday that the regulations are too complex and could hamper needed medical treatment.

"They will unfortunately likely result in avoidable and unnecessary human suffering," he said.

Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives President Julianne Ewen also expressed concerns when the regulations were presented to lawmakers.

"There are a lot of areas where practices are not going to prescribe at all," she said. "It leaves the patient out in the cold."

Vest said the licensure board has tried to address concerns from medical groups and has concluded that the standards are "broad enough to do what we need to do."