Beshear appoints panel to help spot pill-pushing doctors

bestep@herald-leader.comNovember 5, 2011 

Gov. Steve Beshear spoke at the podium during an unveiling event at Woodford Co. High School in Versailles, Ky., on Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

PABLO ALCALA | STAFF

  • KASPER advisory council members

    Dr. Mary Helen Davis, chair, psychiatrist, Louisville

    Dr. Laxmaiah Manchikanti, pain management physician, Paducah

    Dr. William Craig Denham, general practitioner, Maysville

    Dr. Corazon A. Veza, oncologist, Elizabethtown

    Sandra P. Thornbury, pharmacist, Pikeville

    Jackson M. Bray, pharmacist, Frankfort

    Kelly Lynn Whitaker, pharmacist, Hickory

    Julianne Zehnder Ewen, advanced practice registered nurse, Lexington

    Dr. Katherine King, dentist, Somerset

    Dr. Michelle Lofwall, University of Kentucky Department of Psychiatry, Lexington

    David B. Hayden, regional substance abuse program director, Bluegrass Regional Mental Health-Mental Retardation Board, Lexington

The governor has appointed a panel that will come up with guidelines to help spot suspicious prescribing practices by medical professionals.

The guidelines could facilitate a crackdown on health care providers who are prescribing too many pain pills, contributing to the state's crippling level of prescription-drug abuse.

"The professionals I'm appointing know the difference between legitimate prescriptions and what constitutes a pattern of abuse," Gov. Steve Beshear said in a news release. "This is just another way for us to identify and investigate providers who may have become drug pushers."

Beshear announced the 11 appointees to the advisory council Friday.

The panel is made up of four practicing physicians, including a psychiatrist, a pain-management specialist and an oncologist; three pharmacists; a nurse; a dentist; a substance-abuse and mental-health professional from the University of Kentucky faculty; and a representative of community mental-health centers, which provide drug treatment.

Dr. Mary Helen Davis, a psychiatrist from Louisville, will chair the council, according to the news release.

Davis' office said on Friday that council members are talking to figure out a date for their first meeting.

The council will work with the state's electronic prescription-monitoring system — known by the acronym KASPER — and with health care licensing boards and law-enforcement agencies to identify generally accepted prescribing levels among different medical specialties.

For instance, it may be routine for a cancer doctor to write 50 prescriptions for pain pills in a month, but that would be very high for a dentist.

Officials in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which maintains the KASPER system, could use guidelines from the advisory council to spot unusual prescribing activity. Cabinet officials would notify oversight agencies, such as the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, of the potentially suspicious activity.

Those boards could then investigate the prescribers. The reports also could lead to investigations by police.

Overdose deaths tied to prescription-drug abuse have risen in Kentucky in recent years. More people in Kentucky now die of overdoses than from car crashes.

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