A Kentucky Congressman is pushing legislation to force the withdrawal of a powerful painkiller from the market.
Somerset Republican Hal Rogers says the drug will only worsen the nation’s prescription drug abuse problems. Rogers describes Zohydro as a “crushable, pure hydrocodone pill” that threatens to become the next Oxycontin, another crushable painkiller that has been widely abused across the nation.
The Courier-Journal reports a single Zohydro pill has up to five times more hydrocodone that medications combined with non-addictive drugs, such as Vicodin.
In addition to the U.S. House legislation, a similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg has defended her agency’s approval of Zohydro, saying that the drug doesn’t contain the same risk of potentially fatal liver damage that is found in other pain-killing narcotics.
Over 40 consumer watchdog groups have petitioned the FDA to pull Zohydro off the market.
The vast majority of Kentucky's health benefit exchange enrollees are signing up for coverage under Medicaid.
Numbers released Thursday by the state show 80 percent of those who have signed up for medical coverage through Kentucky's benefit exchange have done so through the expanded Medicaid program. The remaining 20 percent will get coverage through private insurance companies.
Kentucky has enrolled nearly 300,000 people so far in its health exchange, known as Kynect. Deputy Executive Director Bill Nold says officials are pleased with the number of young Kentuckians who have signed up through the exchange.
"If you look at our total enrollment, about 48 percent are under the age of 35," Nold said.
Health exchange operators throughout the nation have been concerned that not enough younger, healthier people would sign up for coverage before the March 31 deadline.
Those younger customers are needed to subsidize health care for older and less healthy individuals.
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To avoid a tax penalty in 2015, people must have signed up for insurance by the end of March, or at least be insured for nine months of the year.
The Kentucky Senate has passed a bill that would allow doctors to prescribe, and patients to use, cannabis-based oil for medical purposes. The non-intoxicating cannabidiol has been used in other states to treat severe seizures in children, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Julie Denton of Louisville who says the oil would be studied by Kentucky research universities. Doctors would be able to send patients to those universities to acquire the oil. The bill drew no vocal opposition in the Senate chamber.
It cleared the state Senate on Wednesday with a unanimous vote. The bill now moves to the Kentucky House for consideration.
The Kentucky House has passed a measure aimed at blocking minors from using tanning beds. The measure cleared the House on a 61-31 vote Monday and now goes to the state Senate for consideration.
The bill is sponsored by Democratic Representative David Watkins of Henderson. He cites rising rates of skin cancer, especially among young women, as the reason for his proposal to keep people under the age of 18 from becoming customers at tanning facilities.
The bill would make exceptions for minors who have been prescribed the use of tanning beds by physicians.
A major deadline looms at the end of the month for Kentuckians still seeking health insurance.
March 31 is the last day until November to sign up for insurance on Kynect, the state’s online health exchange.
"They would not be able to enroll in coverage again until the next open enrollment period which, right now, we understand to be starting November 15 for effective dates of coverage of January 1, 2015," explains Janie Miller, CEO of Kentucky Health Cooperative. "So basically for the remainder of this year they would not be able to get coverage for themselves or their family."
There will be exceptions for qualifying events such as marriage or job changes.
According to the state, 279,601 people had obtained health coverage on the exchange, including 222,719 individuals who enrolled in Medicaid and 56,882 individuals who picked up private insurance as of last Friday.
Rita Wooten holds up her smartphone and plays a video: her three-year-old son, Eli, clad in a diaper, writhes on a couch, his limbs twitching, his lips a pale shade of blue.
Eli has Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, or LGS, a rare neurological disorder that causes chronic seizures.Wooton says her son has suffered thousands of them, causing extensive brain damage.
Wooton testified before the Senate Health & Welfare Committee Wednesday in support of a measure filed by Sen. Julie Denton that would permit state universities to research and ultimately prescribe the use of cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound derived from the cannabis plant that is believed to successfully treat certain neurological disorders.
“Our neurologist told us two weeks ago..she said ‘Rita, try this CBD oil and see if it’ll help’. I said we can’t because it’s not legal in our state. I said we’re looking at going to Colorado. We shouldn’t have to leave our homes and our families and our jobs to seek treatment for him.”
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says that mustering legislative support for a bill that would ban smoking in private businesses and public areas is “an uphill battle.”
Stumbo says that the bill, sponsored by Rep. Susan Westrom, has only a handful of Republican votes and about 30 Democratic votes.
He says despite his support, some lawmakers are apprehensive about the ban.
“The people in Prestonsburg already have it, for example. If I vote for it, the people out in the county, who might object to it, didn’t get that same local option treatment that the city people, that the folks in the city did. And we’re running into a lot of that.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Steve Beshear confirmed that he is working to persuade lawmakers individually to drum up support for the bill, which has languished in the House for nearly three weeks without a vote.
Over 30 localities across the state currently prohibit smoking in public areas and in some private businesses.
Gov. Steve Beshear has announced a new initiative aimed at improving Kentucky’s health outcomes over the next five years.
‘KyHealthNow’ (Kentucky Health Now) will seek to improve Kentuckians’ health in the areas of smoking, obesity, cancer, heart disease and more by 10 percent.
Beshear says the initiative will piggyback off of the success of the state’s implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act, which has enrolled over 240,000 people across the commonwealth.
“We want to reduce Kentucky’s rate of uninsured individuals to less than five percent," the Governor said Thursday. "The link between access to affordable health care and good health is clear, it’s direct, it’s indisputable.”
Beshear says the initiative will coordinate executive and legislative actions, as well as public private partnerships.
Kentucky ranks among the worst states for rates of smoking, cancer deaths and heart attacks.
According to the poll, 52 percent of those surveyed favor legalizing medical marijuana in the commonwealth, while 37 percent are opposed.
It’s the second year in a row a Bluegrass Poll has shown strong support for legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Last year’s poll asked Kentuckians if they supported “prescribed” medical marijuana, and 60 percent responded favorably. This year’s poll dropped the word “prescribed.”
Medical marijuana proponents in Kentucky say the poll shows the effort is gaining momentum, though changes to state law seem unlikely during this year’s General Assembly.
The Bluegrass Poll was conducted January 30 through February 3 by SurveyUSA, and included the responses of 1,082 Kentuckians. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.