prescription abuse

Two Campbellsville residents have been arrested for obtaining and distributing prescription drugs under false pretenses.  Investigators say the pair illegally distributed more than a thousand Suboxone tablets. 

Steve Davis, Inspector General for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, says Suboxone is used to wean addicts off of opiates, but it still has addictive qualities.

"It is itself an opiate, but it's a partial antagonist, which means it doesn't have the full effect that a full-fledged opiate would have," Davis told WKU Public Radio.  "One of the primary differences is that it doesn't cause respiratory distress when it's over-utilized."

Attorney General Andy Beshear says part of the solution to Kentucky’s drug epidemic begins at home. 

Beshear announced a new program Tuesday that will help get unused pain killers out of home medicine cabinets, a place where family or friends often begin their drug abuse. 

The AG’s office has launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program which uses the drug deactivation pouch Deterra.  Kentuckians will be able to place their unused medication into the pouch, fill it with warm water, wait 30 seconds, seal the pouch, and shake the pouch before disposing of it in normal trash. One pouch destroys 45 pills, six ounces of liquid or six patches.

A former Monroe County physician is headed to prison for over-prescribing pain medicine that resulted in patient deaths. 

Clella Hayes was sentenced Thursday in federal court in Bowling Green. 

In testimony before the court, the 42-year-old mother of two was hailed by her family and colleagues as someone whose life was devoted to serving others.  Her sister, Sarah Higgins, asked for leniency.

"When we were little, all I ever remember hearing her say was that she wanted to become a doctor," Higgins said.

A new study says prescriptions for commonly abused medications and doctor-shopping by pill seekers have decreased since Kentucky passed legislation targeting prescription drug abuse.

The 2012 law expanded the state's prescription drug monitoring system and mandated that pain management clinics be owned by licensed doctors, among other initiatives. Researchers at the University of Kentucky found that the number of opioid prescriptions to people who were doctor-shopping fell by more than 50 percent after the law was passed. Doctor-shopping occurs when a patient receives similar prescriptions, typically painkillers, from multiple doctors.

The study also found that 24 pain management clinics that were not owned by doctors have shut down in the state.

Governor Steve Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and legislative leaders announced the findings at the Capitol on Monday.

Report: Kentucky Drug Overdose Deaths Rose in 2014

Jul 15, 2015

A new report shows the number of people who died from drug overdoses in Kentucky jumped 7 percent last year while the number of deaths attributed to heroin stayed about the same.

The Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy issued the report Wednesday and said it illustrates the persistent challenge the state faces in combating drug abuse.

Louisville had the most overdose deaths with 204, an increase of 12 from 2013. Floyd County in eastern Kentucky had the highest number of overdose deaths per 100,000 people with 55.1.

Autopsies from the Kentucky Medical Examiner's office indicate the majority of people who died had multiple drugs in their system. Morphine accounted for the most deaths, showing up in more than 40 percent of all cases.

The state legislature overhauled its drug treatment and sentencing laws earlier this year.

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Kentucky will receive over $1 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat prescription drug abuse.

The money will be spread out over three years and used to enhance the state’s prescription drug monitoring program. Kentucky has the third highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation, and has recently seen a surge in the number of deaths related to heroin.

The funding was announced Tuesday in Paintsville by CDC Director Thomas Frieden. He was joined by Rep. Hal Rogers, a Somerset Republic who represents the state’s 5th District. During his announcement, Frieden lauded efforts made by the commonwealth to crack down on the illegal prescription drug trade.

In recent years, state lawmakers have passed legislation cracking down on pill mills, which are clinics that abuse their prescription-writing authority for people seeking pain medication for recreational use. Kentucky also requires controlled substance prescribers to use KASPER, the state’s prescription monitoring program.

The CDC says the number of KASPER reports has more than tripled since those laws went into effect, and there has been a nine-percent decline in the amount of controlled substance dispensing in the commonwealth.

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.

Kentucky's Attorney General continues to say he's strongly considering a run for governor.

Democrat Jack Conway was in south-central Kentucky Wednesday, addressing students and civic groups about issues including the state's prescription drug abuse problems.

After a speech to the Noon Rotary Club in Bowling Green, Conway told reporters there are other races that deserve the spotlight ahead of the 2015 gubernatorial election.

"With the Alison Lundergan Grimes campaign underway, they deserve a few quarters under their belt before a governor's race lands on top of them," Conway said. "But I would think that by the spring of next year, whoever's running for governor ought to be starting a fundraising operation to put together the resources necessary."

Grimes is challenging Republican Senator Mitch McConnell in next year's much-talked-about Kentucky Senate race. Conway told his Bowling Green audience that coal will continue to be an important source of energy for the region, and that the state must continue to step up its fight against prescription pill abuse.

Judge: Oxycontin Trial to Remain in Pikeville

Oct 1, 2013

A judge has ruled that a civil trial involving the maker of OxyContin should remain in Pikeville.

The lawsuit filed by Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma alleges that the company misled health care providers, consumers and government officials regarding the risk of addiction associated with OxyContin. Conway is seeking reimbursement of money spent on law enforcement, drug treatment programs and Medicaid prescriptions.

Purdue Pharma had requested that the trial be moved, saying an impartial jury couldn't be seated in Pike County. Prosecutors objected.

The Lexington Herald Leader reports Conway said in a statement that Circuit Judge Steven Combs issued an order denying the request.

Purdue Pharma spokesman James Heins said in a statement that the company disagrees and is "assessing our options."

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A judge is considering whether a civil trial involving the maker of OxyContin should be moved away from Pikeville.

The lawsuit filed by Kentucky Attorney General against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma alleges that the company misled health care providers, consumers and government officials regarding the risk of addiction associated with OxyContin. Conway is seeking reimbursement of money spent on law enforcement, drug treatment programs and Medicaid prescriptions.

The Appalachian News Express reports Circuit Judge Steve Combs heard arguments during a hearing in Pikeville last week over whether the trial should be moved.

Attorneys for Purdue Pharma said it would be impossible to seat an impartial jury there and asked that the proceedings be moved to central Kentucky.

The attorney general's office said the trial should remain in Pikeville.

Kentucky officials will start a yearlong study next month to determine the effects of controversial new laws designed to curb prescription pill abuse.

The Courier-Journal reports the Cabinet for Health and Family Services has contracted with the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy's Institute for Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy on the study, which will run July 1 through June 30, 2014.

David Hopkins, who manages the state's prescription drug monitoring program called KASPER, said the study will look at several areas including changes in prescribing patterns, the impact on drug-treatment centers and whether the laws have had unintended consequences.

Those to be surveyed for the study include doctors, dentists and licensing boards. Researchers will also review data from the prescription drug monitoring program and statistics from hospitals and substance abuse centers.

A national pharmaceutical company is helping train Kentucky law enforcement on how to address prescription pill abuse in their communities.

Purdue Pharma helps produce some of the prescriptions often abused in Kentucky, including OxyCotin.

But company executives say that for the last few years, Purdue Pharma has been helping to train law enforcement officials on how to help crack down on illegal prescribing and abuse.

As part of a free training seminar, Purdue officials are once again in Kentucky helping health care officials and law enforcement address potential pill abuse.

John Gilbride, a law enforcement liaison for Purdue, says the company has frequently held the seminars in the state.

A bill addressing issues with 2012's pill mill bill has cleared a state Senate committee, less than a day after it cleared the full House.

The bill calls off some regulations of the 2012 House Bill 1, which cracked down on prescription pain clinics and abuse.

It also exempts hospitals and long term care facilities from pulling KASPER reports every time they prescribe medication.

And while some regulations are being pulled back, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear said the teeth in the original law are still strong.

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Kentucky lawmakers agree some changes need to be made to a  law passed last year that cracks down on illegal "pill mills." But what exactly those changes should be remains open to debate.

The Courier-Journal reports legislators want to amend the law to make it more manageable for honest physicians, while still cracking down on doctors who have helped fuel prescription drug abuse in parts of Kentucky by writing scores of bogus prescriptions for pills that are later sold to addicts.

Many Kentucky doctors have complained to Governor Steve Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway that the new rules are too cumbersome and confusing, and make it needlessly difficult for physicians to get pain medication to patients who need it.

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Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear has signed emergency regulations that require doctors to meet tougher prescription standards in an effort to stop drug abuse. The rules, which were given to given to state boards that oversee the medical industry on Friday, were presented to lawmakers this week and will remain in effect until permanent regulations are adopted.