Politics & Government

Stumbo proposes moving prescription drug monitoring to attorney general's office

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg

FRANKFORT — House Speaker Greg Stumbo hopes to crack down on doctors who overprescribe pain medications by moving the statewide prescription monitoring system to a law-enforcement agency.

Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Wednesday that he soon would file a bill to transfer the state's Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System, known as KASPER, from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to Attorney General Jack Conway's office.

"I think the system would be more effective if a law-enforcement agency administered it," he said.

Stumbo has faulted the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure for not doing enough to go after doctors who overprescribe narcotics in a state where drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for some age groups. The board should use data from KASPER to identify doctors who prescribe too many scheduled narcotics, he said.

The board has countered that the KASPER data it gets from the cabinet does not provide enough detailed information to determine whether a doctor is overprescribing. The board has said more detailed information from KASPER would help its investigations.

With KASPER in the attorney general's office, "there would be better understanding of data and what to do with it," Stumbo said.

Michael Rodman, the licensure board's executive director, said he had no comment on potential legislation to move KASPER to the attorney general's office.

Gov. Steve Beshear said he has discussed moving KASPER with Health and Family Services Secretary Janie Miller and he supports the transfer to Conway's office.

"That law enforcement agency would be able to quickly assess and investigate potential abuse with the assistance of the appropriate medical licensure boards," Beshear said in a statement.

He noted that a new KASPER advisory council, which is to develop recommendations to flag suspicious prescribing habits, "will also enhance our work to catch predatory physicians.

"We are united in our efforts to stamp out prescription drug abuse, and we are pursuing multiple avenues to reach that goal," Beshear said.

He said he was working with Stumbo and Conway on several other pieces of legislation to help prevent prescription drug abuse.

Conway said in a statement that his office would be willing to operate the KASPER system.

"As attorney general, I've repeatedly said that in order to impact the scourge of prescription pill abuse, law enforcement officers need more access to the data housed in the KASPER system," Conway said.

However, he said his office would need "appropriate resources" to operate the system.

The transfer would send about $1.3 million from the cabinet to Conway's office, Stumbo said.

The House leader noted that he was working with Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, on other initiatives to target those who overprescribe drugs and would unveil them in legislation for this year's General Assembly to consider.

Federal drug-abuse statistics show that 6.5 percent of all Kentuckians have abused prescription drugs, compared to the national average of 5 percent.

Stumbo said in October that a key problem with KASPER is that less than 25 percent of physicians use it and that legislation was needed to require its use by those who prescribe controlled substances.