FRANKFORT — A legislative review panel signed off on several new regulations Monday that govern the implementation of a controversial 2012 law to tackle Kentucky's prescription drug-abuse problem.
The regulations for the so-called "pill mill bill" dealt with a variety of issues, ranging from standards for prescribing certain medications to disciplinary hearings and continuing education for doctors.
The Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee approved 12 proposed regulations — 10 offered by the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure and two by the state Office of Inspector General in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services — for last year's House Bill 1.
The law was designed to halt doctors and pain management clinics that push addictive pills for profit rather than good medical care. It expanded Kentucky's prescription monitoring system and required that any new pain clinic must be owned by a licensed medical practitioner.
But some health care providers said legitimate medical care got entangled in the law. They contended the law sometimes forces doctors to jump through needless hoops while they try to provide quick medical care in hospitals.
Sen. Joe Bowen, R-Owensboro, chairman of the regulations review panel, said the rules adopted by the subcommittee would go to the legislature's health and welfare committees for consideration during the 2013 General Assembly session that begins Tuesday.
"We're just one little speed bump in the road in this regulations process," said Bowen of his panel. "All of this will go through the legislative process in the session."
Rep. Bob Damron, R-Nicholasville, said he was willing to support the licensure board's proposed regulations if its officials committed to working with lawmakers during the 2013 session.
Dr. Preston P. Nunnelley of Lexington, president of the licensure board, assured Damron that would happen. If it does not, Damron said, he would ask the review subcommittee to reconsider the regulations.
Reps. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, and Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, said they were concerned that the law has had the unintended consequence of hurting people who actually need pain medication.
Bell noted that heroin is "now flowing into this state" and producing more drug addicts.
The lawmakers said some doctors have stopped prescribing pain medications because they feel "criminally threatened" by the law.
Bill Doll, a lobbyist for the Kentucky Medical Association, said the law presented "a threatening environment" for doctors concerned about criminal liability, and he expressed hope that the 2013 law-making session could address those concerns.
C. Lloyd Vest, general counsel for the licensure board, said he was not aware of any legitimate, physician-owned pain management clinic going out of business because of the new law.