The Kentucky House of Representatives recently passed key pain legislation that aims to crack down on prescription drug abuse — an issue plaguing our state in recent years.
We optimistically look forward to changes — specifically the mandatory participation in KASPER (Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) that will strengthen Kentucky's ability to combat our rising drug abuse and overdose rates.
However, as we pledge our commitment to curb abuse, we must also ensure a new law does not restrict physicians' ability to care for legitimate pain patients.
According to a new survey from the American Osteopathic Association, 84 percent of people in Kentucky report experiencing pain in the last 30 days.
Kentucky is currently a weak link in the nation's regulation of prescription drugs.
We are living in a state whose lenient policies have invited people to cross state lines to do their doctor shopping after they meet tougher regulations elsewhere. The downward spiral of prescription drug abuse is able to occur when a person receives prescription medications from multiple physicians.
We are living in a state that enables this type of misuse of the system to continue unchecked and unreported — until now.
To cut off the issue at its source, House Bill 4 mandates physician participation in KASPER, so that all prescribers will see where each patient has received prescription medications across the state. Mandating participation in KASPER is an essential step to change our state's abuse epidemic.
Today, less than a third of prescribers are voluntarily using the system. When there isn't a full patient history available, the system doesn't work and people fall through the cracks.
While we support processes that help combat drug abuse, we must ensure the new law does not limit the ability of physicians to properly care for pain patients by adding new layers of approval or prescribing restrictions. Such restrictions would limit access to care and cause further delays in treatment.
The AOA survey results show that it takes an average of six weeks for Kentuckians experiencing chronic pain to find a physician to help them manage that pain. These delays in treatment cause people to ignore or under-treat their pain, which actually leads to more pain — creating a debilitating cycle.
Every pain patient has the right to find the relief they need in a timely manner and part of the challenge is there is no "one size fits all" treatment. As an osteopathic physician, I take a "whole person" approach with my patients to effectively manage their pain through an individualized treatment plan.
A patient's plan should allow them to try a range of treatment techniques so they can find what works best for them. For many patients, that includes the safe use of prescription medications, among other methods like hands-on therapy.
Today, we find ourselves at a critical tipping point. Kentucky has a unique opportunity to work with local physicians and nongovernmental organizations to adopt the right pain management law for our state.
By streamlining reporting practices and protecting access to care, patients will remain central to the pain management equation.
The time is now to come together and create an environment that balances responsible prescribing and medication tracking processes with proper access to care for chronic pain patients. For those in Kentucky living in pain every day, that time can't come fast enough.