Tweaks to prescription drug law get initial OK

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Associated Press

Posted on February 26, 2013 at 9:01 AM

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Patients in hospitals, nursing homes and hospice centers could soon be exempted from rules intended to make it more difficult for addicts to get painkillers in Kentucky.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-0 on Monday to approve changes to a year-old law that was intended to crack down on widespread prescription drug abuse in a state where more people are dying from overdoses than car crashes.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the law had unintended consequences that made the seriously ill and the elderly subject to the same level of scrutiny as would-be prescription drug traffickers.

"We have exempted hospitals and long-term care facilities from the requirements because we know that patients who are admitted to these facilities are not likely to divert drugs during their stay," Stumbo said.

The bill also gives surgery patients with a 14-day exemption.

"We know that pain management during this time is critical," Stumbo said.

Special allowances are also made for hospice and end-of-life treatment, cancer patients, those who react adversely to a prescription and require a substitute medicine, and those engaged in federally authorized research projects.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he is OK with the tweaks that Stumbo outlined on Monday.

The measure now goes to the full House for consideration before being sent to the Senate.

Gov. Steve Beshear had urged lawmakers in his annual State of the Commonwealth speech earlier this month to make some minor changes to the prescription drug law to accommodate patients who are clearly not drug abusers or traffickers.

Beshear warned against wholesale changes, saying the new prescription drug law has led to the closure of at least 10 pain management clinics and a significant decrease in the number of painkillers being prescribed.

The law requires pain management clinics to be owned by licensed medical providers and that they have medical directors in charge. Already, at least 10 pain clinics have shut down since the law went into effect last July.

The law also requires all doctors, dentists, optometrists, registered nurses and podiatrists to check their patients' drug histories on the state's prescription monitoring system, known as KASPER, before writing prescriptions.

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The legislation is House Bill 217.

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