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Prescription Drug Abuse in Kentucky Declined After 2012 Law, Report Says

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The number of Kentuckians “doctor shopping” to obtain similar drug prescriptions from multiple doctors dropped significantly after new drug laws went into effect in 2012, according to a new University of Kentucky report.

The so-called “pill-mill bill” required pain management facilities to be owned by a licensed physician, and pharmacists to register with a prescription monitoring system called KASPER.

On Monday, several state elected officials announced the results of the report, saying it showed ongoing success in the state's efforts to curb drug abuse.

“The decision to prescribe a pain killer has become more of a conscious, measured decision between a prescriber and a patient,” Gov. Steve Beshear said.

After the law was implemented, 24 pain management facilities that weren’t owned by physicians were shut down, according to the report.

The report also indicates a 52 percent decline in the number of patients “doctor shopping.”

But the state has had an uptick in heroin usage since the passage of the pill mill bill, which many have attributed to the increased difficulty in obtaining diverted prescription drugs and the low cost of heroin.

Beshear said that lawmakers will continue to address problems with new drugs as they continue to pop up on the horizon.

“We’re now looking at synthetic drugs that are surfacing,” Beshear said.

“So this is a never ending process but that doesn’t mean you don’t attack the problems as they arise and try to save and rehabilitate as many of our citizens that get involved in this as is humanely possible.”

This spring lawmakers passed a bill that seeks to stymie the state’s growing heroin problem. Senate President Robert Stivers, a Manchester Republican, said the Statehouse has had a good tradition of bipartisan legislation that addresses the state’s drug problems.

“When somebody’s out there dealing in a drug, they don’t ask you if you’re a Republican or a Democrat before they sell it to you,” Stivers said. They just want to try to profiteer off the system, they don’t care about the heartache or pain they create for families.”

The report used data collected between 2009 and 2013—in that year, deaths from overdoses in the state declined for the first time in six years.

Kentucky overdose deaths increased from 1,010 in 2013 to 1,087 in 2014.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. Email Ryland at rbarton@lpm.org.