Prescription drug abuse has affected almost every family in Kentucky – including mine. For quite some time, parts of Kentucky looked like the Wild West. Pharmacists in eastern Kentucky were working behind bullet proof glass, Fed Ex trucks were being robbed, and patients were lined up around the block clutching fake MRIS and cash to receive prescriptions from some doctors who were handing out pills like candy.
We’ve now taken significant steps in fighting prescription drug abuse. Gov. Beshear, Senate President Stivers, House Speaker Stumbo and I worked across party lines in 2012 to craft and pass a piece of legislation that is now saving lives in Kentucky. For the first time in recent memory, the numbers are moving in the right direction, and we’re a better state for passing this bill that’s become a national model.
House Bill 1 is reversing the downward spiral of prescription drug addiction that’s afflicted this state for more than a decade. For the first time, according to the most recent report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Kentucky is below the national average when it comes to prescription drug abuse. In 2013, also for the first time in a decade, the number of deaths blamed on prescription overdoses declined.
Before the passage of House Bill 1, Kentucky was losing three people every day to prescription drug overdoses. Pill mills, doctor shopping and families dealing with prescription pill addiction were crippling communities across Kentucky. Prescribing rates for hydrocodone, oxycodone, alprazolam and other controlled substances were fostering an addiction culture at an alarming rate.
House Bill 1 included multiple strategies to prevent the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs. It expanded Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting, Kentucky’s prescription monitoring system, and required that pain management facilities be owned by a licensed physician. Specifically, the bill mandated that practitioners and pharmacists register with the KASPER system and check that system before prescribing controlled substances. This allows doctors to reduce the number of patients receiving similar prescriptions from multiple doctors.
Since this landmark prescription drug abuse legislation took effect in 2012, the University of Kentucky found in a recent study that the Commonwealth has seen a significant decline in the number of prescriptions for the most commonly abused medications, doctor shopping has decreased by more than 50 percent, and more Kentuckians are seeking treatment for prescription medication addiction. In addition to treatment, five million KASPER reports were requested in 2014. The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure took 196 controlled substance prescribing disciplinary actions against 142 physicians, ranging from emergency orders of suspension or restriction, to license suspensions or surrenders and revocations. The Board also has the ability to restrict a physician’s ability to prescribe controlled substances through the use of an Agreed Order.
These findings, among others, are part of a yearlong study conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky Institute for Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy and compiled in a report to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. The study’s executive summary and full report are available in the KASPER Studies and Surveys section of the KASPER public website: www.chfs.ky.gov/KASPER. The results of this study are proof of what can happen when we cross political aisles and put the health and welfare of people above partisan politics. By working together, we can ensure a brighter future for all Kentucky families.