Kentucky’s pill mill fight makes headlines in Wall Street Journal

A man gets arrested at a pain clinic in Lexington.
Photo by Charles Bertram for the Lexington

The Wall Street Journal has featured Kentucky’s legislative battle over its pill-mill bill in today’s paper, calling the state an “epicenter of abuse.”

“Kentucky is ground zero of the effort to move prescription-drug monitoring programs out of the health-care arena into law enforcement,” said Even Jenkins, executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association, a physicians trade group, and a Democratic state senator.

“The Republican-controlled Senate is considering a vote as early as Friday on a bill that would restrict ownership of pain clinics to licensed physicians and give law enforcement easier access to the state’s prescription-drug database,” writes Timothy W. Martin.
But, he notes, there is strong opposition to the bill from the Kentucky Medical Association, which worries “giving law enforcement oversight of a database with prescription-drug information is a violation of personal privacy.”
“You are essentially legislating medical care. We think doctors should write those regulations, not legislatures,” said Shawn Jones, president of the KMA. He called the bill an “overreach.”
“The struggle over the Kentucky bill highlights the complicated path policy makers and law enforcement are traversing nationwide in their attempts to fight abuse of prescription painkillers,” Martin reports. “Unlike importers and dealers of illicit drugs such as cocaine, the supply chain for prescription drugs is made up largely of legitimate businesses and professionals.”
Legislative pushes in Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and other states have been met with fierce opposition from physician and pharmacy trade groups, Martin writes.
About 48 states have legislation requiring prescription drug-monitoring programs. That’s up by 16 from 10 years ago, but restrictions for who can access the data varies by state, Martin reports. Kentucky law enforcement has complained it cannot access the data in time to single out problem prescribers, which is the reason House Bill 1 would transfer the tracking system from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to the attorney general’s office.
“The data is all there — it’s just under a rug,” said Attorney General Jack Conway, saying law enforcement cannot know now who are the highest prescribers in the state. Having access to the database would solve that problem, he said. (Read more)
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