Changes to pill laws clear panel with governor's support

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

Several tweaks to prescription drug laws, backed by Gov. Steve Beshear and legislative leaders, cleared a Senate panel Thursday, setting up a vote on the Senate floor.

House Bill 217, which passed the House unanimously Wednesday, would ease new requirements on doctors, hospitals and long-term care centers. The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the legislation.

Beshear, who spoke on HB 217 along with Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, said the state’s efforts to curb prescription drug abuse and close so-called “pill mills” – illicit pain clinics that prescribe painkillers with little or no medical examination – have proven effective.

“Because of what we’ve done, we are slowly but surely having a major impact on the misuse of prescription drugs in the state,” Beshear said.

Many in the medical field complained of burdensome provisions in sweeping prescription drug reforms enacted last year, such as querying the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system and performing a physical examination before prescribing certain drugs.

HB 217 intends to address some of those unforeseen issues with prescription drug laws enacted last year, said Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg.

The bill would ease KASPER requirements on those who are hospitalized or living in long-term care centers and exempt those receiving cancer or end-of-life service from the KASPER provision.

It would also establish a 14-day exemption period for surgeries, and doctors would have more leeway in physically and mentally examining patients and running KASPER reports on regular patients.

The Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure is also working on amending regulations governing prescription practices, such as removing a requirement for urine screens during long-term treatment, Stumbo said.

“Obviously if the physician believes that there’s adverse medical reaction to the drug or if the drug’s being abused or if the drug’s not being taken and hence gotten and sold, perhaps, on the market, he or she should have the right to require a blood test or a urine test,” Stumbo said.

“That’s what we are focusing on – doing away with some of the goblins that jumped up and continuing with a tough, strong, workable solution to the prescription drug problem in Kentucky.”

He cited a report in the Ashland Daily Independent that shows overdose deaths in the newspaper’s coverage area have been cut in half since the new law took effect.

Stivers, R-Manchester, said HB 217 represents “logical steps” to strengthen prescription drug laws without burdening Kentucky’s medical community.

“Now we have a workable situation and a framework in place,” he said.

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