Friday, April 6, 2012

In bipartisan way, political leaders push passage of 'pill mill' bill

A bipartisan group of political leaders issued a call today "to pass a bill that will help the state battle one of its most significant threats – prescription drug abuse," a press release from Gov. Steve Beshear's office said. Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, Senate Republican Floor Leader Robert Stivers, Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, said the legislature should pass House Bill 4 when it returns to Frankfort for its final day April 12.

"Since the beginning of 2012, more than 400 Kentuckians have been hospitalized because of prescription drug overdoses – a statistic that the leaders say underscores the crucial need to pass this bill in this legislative session," the release said. "Kentucky has the nation’s sixth-highest rate of prescription drug overdose deaths, at nearly 18 deaths per 100,000."

Conway said in the release, “I'm hopeful everyone, including the medical community, can get on board with House Bill 4 to ensure that we don't lose another generation in Kentucky to prescription drug abuse.” The bill would move the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system to Conway's office from the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, which is controlled by doctors and has done little to rein in "pill mills" that churn out prescriptions for painkillers.

"Law enforcement members warn that Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida have passed legislation similar to HB 4 to address pill mills, and failing to pass similar legislation could create a diversion effect in which Kentucky could become a source state for prescription painkillers," the release said.

Stumbo, who preceded Conway as attorney general, said in the release, “Given the true epidemic we are seeing, we cannot afford to wait another year to try to pass this again.” In October, Stumbo, Beshear and Conway "announced creation of an advisory board of physicians, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists to work with KASPER officials and law enforcement professionals to create guidelines for generally accepted prescribing practices among different medical disciplines," the release said. "These criteria will be used as a guide for when a prescriber or dispenser’s KASPER reports may be flagged for unusual prescribing activity."

The bill would require all prescription providers to register and use KASPER, require pain management clinics to be owned by a licensed medical practitioner, make medical licensure boards investigate prescribing complaints within four months. 

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