Much-called-for changes to Kentucky's prescription drug law are on their way to the governor.
The Senate on Monday passed the final version of a bill that would loosen the law's restrictions to accommodate the seriously ill and elderly, groups that were subjected to the same scrutiny as would-be prescription drug traffickers. The vote was 36-0. The House passed the proposal last week.
The law requires doctors, dentists, optometrists, registered nurses and podiatrists to check their patients' drug histories on the state's prescription monitoring system, known as KASPER, before writing prescriptions. The bill's changes would exempt patients in hospitals and hospital care as well as people receiving cancer treatment, among others.
"This just went back to some practical common sense things," Senate President Robert Stivers told reporters after the vote.
Stivers added: "Every group that we know of that was involved in facilitating this -- (whether it) be the hospitals, the doctors, the long-term health care facilities -- were supportive of what we did. And the enforcement groups were supportive, too."
The bill is the product of a bipartisan push to remedy the law's unintended consequences. Stivers, a Republican, had joined with Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and House speaker Greg Stumbo, also a Democrat, in calling for the changes.
Kentucky passed its sweeping prescription drug law last year in an effort to crack down on widespread prescription drug abuse in a state where more people are dying from overdoses than car crashes.
Beshear had urged lawmakers in his annual State of the Commonwealth speech in early February to make some minor changes to the prescription drug law to accommodate patients who are clearly not drug abusers or traffickers. But he warned against wholesale changes, saying the new prescription drug law has led to the closure of at least 10 pain management clinics and a significant decrease in the number of painkillers being prescribed.