Democratic Leaders Announce Prescription Drug Initiatives

LEXINGTON, Ky. – As Kentucky works with neighboring states and federal authorities to tackle prescription drug abuse, three Democratic leaders say there are improvements that also need to be made within the Commonwealth.

At a press conference in Lexington Thursday Governor Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo announced initiatives to crack down on physicians who over-prescribe pain killers.

"A pill mill is nothing more than a doctor's office. That's all it is. And so when you say well we're going to stop pill mills,' then you have to recognize that those are doctors that are prescribing those narcotics," said Stumbo.

Governor Beshear says he will put together an advisory board of physicians, pharmacists, and law enforcement professionals to create guidelines that should make it easier to locate so-called "drug dealers in white coats."

"Instead of sitting back and waiting for a complaint to come in, we're going to proactively look and find those folks who may be over-prescribing," said Beshear.

Kentucky has a prescription monitoring program called KASPER, which stands for Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting. It allows users to track where and how often medications like pain killers are being dispensed.

Conway, who like Beshear is seeking re-election, says the KASPER system needs to be more effectively utilized.

"We need to identify actual physicians that are over-prescribing and have appropriate actions taken by the Board of Medical Licensure, by the respective licensing boards, and have the information forwarded on to law enforcement when appropriate."

Officials say only about 25 percent of prescribers in Kentucky actually have a KASPER account, but legislation being discussed for the upcoming session of the General Assembly would make it a requirement. Stumbo says he also plans to work with lawmakers to better regulate who can own and operate pain clinics in Kentucky.

A $60,000 grant to the anti-drug group Operation UNITE will be used to educate doctors and pharmacists about the benefits of the monitoring system.