New prescription drug law prompts four pain clinics to close

jbrammer@herald-leader.comJuly 24, 2012 

FRANKFORT — Just a few days after a new state law went into effect to crack down on Kentucky's increasing problem with prescription drug abuse, four "pain management clinics" already have notified the state that they cannot comply with it and will close, Gov. Steve Beshear said Tuesday.

Beshear also said another nine such clinics have not applied for a state license. "They will be investigated to see if they are operating illegally."

The Democratic governor declined to identify the clinics but said they are not owned by physicians.

Attorney General Jack Conway said two of the four that are closing have had past experience with law enforcement officials. He did not elaborate.

The state is aware of 44 pain management clinics but expects there are others, said Jill Midkiff, a spokeswoman for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

"We do not have a precise number because they have not previously been licensed." Midkiff said. "In addition to pain management clinics that would fall under the purview of the cabinet, there are a number of legitimate pain management facilities that are physician owned and regulated by the Kentucky Board for Medical Licensure."

Beshear noted the clinics during a Capitol news conference to report that House Bill 1, which state lawmakers approved this year and he signed into law in April, already is producing results in fighting prescription drug abuse. It took effect July 20.

Beshear said Kentucky now has "some of the strongest tools in the country" to fight prescription drug abuse. Nearly 1,000 Kentuckians die every year from drug overdoes — an annual fatality rate that exceeds deaths from car accidents, according to Kentucky's Drug Control Policy Office.

The new law requires all prescription providers to register with a state monitoring system called KASPER — Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting. They must run a KASPER report before prescribing a controlled substance such as Oxycontin or Xanax.

The state health cabinet said 90 percent of all KASPER reports are completed within 15 to 30 seconds.

Beshear acknowledged that the state monitoring system was shut down for a few days last week. He said that was because of the high volume of medical providers registering with it.

The initial bill offered this year by House Speaker Greg Stumbo would have moved KASPER from the cabinet to the attorney general's office.

The legislature did not accept that provision, and Beshear said Tuesday he has no plans to issue an executive order to move it.

Beshear and Conway said Conway has a memorandum of understanding with the cabinet, state police and the six professional licensure boards to notify the other agencies of prescription complaints within three days of receipt.

This will allow investigators to share information quickly, Beshear said.

The six professional boards — Medical Licensure, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Podiatry and Optometry — are required to share reports with the attorney general, state police and cabinet but not with each other.

The new law also requires pain management clinics to be owned by a licensed medical practitioner.

Since the law was approved, more than 9,000 medical providers, mostly doctors, have signed up for electronic prescription monitoring — more than doubling the number registered, Beshear said.

Though some doctors contend the new law and emergency regulations Beshear signed last Friday are broad and overreaching, Beshear and Conway said legitimate health providers and patients have nothing to worry about.

"Let's be very clear," Beshear said. "If you need a prescription for a controlled substance for a legitimate medical condition, you have nothing to fear. You'll get your medicine...But if you're doctor-shopping, buying extra pills for recreational use, or prescribing pills for cash, you'd better change your vocation or change your location, because we're coming after you."

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: Bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com.

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