KASPER is tool used to spot prescription drug abuse, but many pharmacies don't use it


by WHAS11 News


Posted on November 12, 2009 at 8:26 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 12 at 9:08 PM

(WHAS11) - Prescription drug abuse is up more than 20% in Kentucky, and one of the key tools designed to fight it, usually isn't used. Some say it's because some doctors and pharmacies make too much money off the drug addicts.

Amanda Albrecht is recovering from prescription drug abuse. She says the abuse cost her her children, her home, she says it cost her everything. 

But, she also says she didn't do it alone. For 11 years, Amanda says she got help from doctors and pharmacists.

"But i would find the doctors who didn't care... That knew that i was going to other doctors and they would just keep writing them," says Albrecht.

"I've taken lortiab 10, perkaset 10, delata, morphine, methadone, xanax, valium, Tylenol 3," she says.
Amanda even told some of her doctors about her addiction but that didn't stop them from writing her prescriptions.

"About four years ago, I found a doctor who wrote me anything and everything, as many as I wanted.  I was getting about 1,500 pain pills a month. And I would take about 30 to 40 a day, sometimes more," said Albrecht.

For more than a decade, she brought the prescriptions to pharmacies all over Kentucky and Indiana.  And for more than a decade, pharmacists filled them.

At Norton Hospital, doctors, nurses and pharmacists are regularly taught how to use KASPER, short for Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting. It's an online database, managed by the state that doctors and pharmacists can use to find a patient's prescription drug history.

Every time a pharmacist fills a controlled substance prescription, it goes into the database.

"KASPER is a tool.  It is just a tool we use to assist people that can affect the drug use problem in Kentucky," said Dave Sallengs of the Kentucky Drug Enforcement Unit.

Sallengs, who teachers medical professionals about the KASPER system says, KASPER has helped fight the abuse of prescription drugs, but neither doctors nor pharmacists are required to search a patient's drug history and, he says, many don't.

"There are a couple of major chains in the state that actually don't allow their pharmacists access to the internet. And so those pharmacists can't check that," added Sallengs.

Pharmacist Steve Ariens fills in at pharmacies all over Kentuckiana. He says searching KASPER before filling prescriptions is habit and some places he's worked don't like it.

"I've worked at stores that have what I consider, to be a large opiate business, I've become persona non grata and not asked back because I did run reports," said Ariens.

It takes him a few minutes to enter the information and run the reports, but he doesn't think time is what bothers some pharmacies.

"I'm sure there is a multitude of reasons, but most of it has to do with time and dollars...but mostly dollars," added Ariens.

Now, Albrecht is learning to become sober at The Healing Place.

She says looking back on her experience makes her angry, not only at herself, but also at the doctors who wrote the prescriptions and at the pharmacists who filled them. She says very few checked KASPER.

"I can only think of about 7 or 8 times that they did and I've went to a lot, a whole lot," said Albrecht.

Out of the hundreds of prescriptions she filled, only once did a pharmacist say no.

However, Sallengs says more should be checking the database for cases like Albrecht. "KASPER is a tool that they should be using and if they're not, well, they should be," he said.

Albrecht says, she's living proof they don't and says the consequences of her decisions and theirs, haunt her every time she looks at the wall of pictures of her children next to her bed, reminding her of how much she lost.

In Kentucky there are 14,000 people who can legally write prescriptions but the KASPER system estimates only about one quarter of them have created KASPER accounts that would help spot a problem.