FRANKFORT (AP) — Prescriptions for painkillers and doctor-shopping by pill seekers have decreased since Kentucky passed legislation targeting prescription drug abuse, according to a University of Kentucky study.
The law passed during a special session in 2012 expanded the state’s prescription drug monitoring system and mandated that pain management clinics be owned by licensed doctors, among other initiatives.
The law “is succeeding in creating a paradigm shift in the behaviors and attitudes of prescribers and patients alike, a shift that will pay off long-term,” Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday. “In this new environment, the decision to prescribe a painkiller has become more of a conscious, measured decision between a prescriber and a patient, with the dangers of addiction well-known and accounted for.”
Beshear joined lawmakers who helped passed the 2012 law at the capitol Monday to tout the gains cited by the study.
Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that overall prescriptions for the different types of controlled substances had decreased from 4 to 8 percent since the legislation was passed. They also found that the number of opioid prescriptions to people who were doctor-shopping fell by more than 50 percent. Doctor-shopping occurs when a patient seeks similar prescriptions, typically painkillers, from multiple doctors.
The study found that 24 pain management clinics in the state that were not owned by doctors have shut down since the legislation was passed.
Researchers also found that the number of prescription pill prescribers that used the state’s monitoring system, known as KASPER, increased from 7,500 before the legislation to 27,000. The law requires doctors and prescribers to check the system to see what has already been prescribed to patients.
Despite the successes, Beshear noted an uptick in overdose deaths from 2013 to 2014, and was hopeful that new legislation passed by the General Assembly would help curb the spread and abuse of heroin.
“The fight against drug addiction is a never-ending process,” he said.
Attorney General Jack Conway said law enforcement is now working closely with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, which certifies the state’s physicians. Conway said the board has referred 211 cases to the attorney general’s office since the passage of the 2012 law. Conway said in his first term as attorney general, the board made no referrals to his office.
“Now we are working with them to make sure we ferret out the worst doctors,” Conway said.
The study by the university’s Institute for Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy looked at data from 2009 through 2013.
Beshear and Conway were joined by Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and Democrat House Speaker Greg Stumbo in the announcement.