Politics & Government

Beshear, Conway tout new drug law but say some changes are needed


FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway touted Kentucky's new law to curb prescription drug abuse Tuesday but acknowledged that it needs a few changes.

Their comments came at the Kentucky Prescription Drug Abuse Policy Forum, initiated by the National Governors Association for several states.

"We have been doing a lot of hard work here in Kentucky to attack the prescription drug problem. House Bill 1 was a tremendous step forward, and is showing immediate results," Beshear said to the group of about 100.

"We are continuing to work to iron out the bumps in the road, and we're going to do that."

Beshear was referring to legislation approved last year by the General Assembly that was designed to halt doctors and pain management clinics that push addictive pills for profit rather than good medical care.

HB 1 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 the law sometimes hampers doctors with too many requirements while they try to provide quick medical care in hospitals. They are hopeful that state legislators this year make changes in the law.

Beshear later told reporters that he and legislative leaders are working together to "identify those few remaining issues." He noted that some changes already have been enacted through administrative regulations.

Conway said HB 1 has "been interesting, to say the least."

He said many doctors over the past year have told him they don't like the bill.

Conway said he wants to assure doctors that they have nothing to fear from the state's monitoring of their prescriptions.

"There's no snooping operation going on," he said, adding that law enforcement officials are only looking at "disturbing trends" of too many prescriptions.

"It's not like every single doctor is getting reviewed every single night," said Conway.

Under the new law, prescriptions for oxycodone are down 16 percent and 20 pain management clinics have closed because they cannot comply with new requirements.

"I think we're generally headed in the right direction," Conway said.

Both Beshear and Conway also said more treatment programs are needed for drug abusers.