Prescription drug abuse

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.

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.

An eastern Kentucky official has announced a settlement in a lawsuit over the drug OxyContin.

The Appalachian News-Express cited a statement from Pike Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford in reporting that drug maker Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $4 million to settle a lawsuit over abuse of the narcotic.

Rutherford said he couldn't give further details about the settlement due to terms of the agreement.

The county initially filed the lawsuit in 2007 and asked for damages the community suffered after the company marketed OxyContin as a safer alternative to other pain medicine.

The drug became so pervasive in eastern Kentucky, it was dubbed "hillbilly heroin."

Rutherford indicated in the statement that he was pleased with terms of the settlement.

"Finally, Pike County Government will have the funds to make a difference in drug addiction," Rutherford said. "We can now establish the Pike County Re-Entry Partnership for people convicted of drug violations. It has taken years to get done. Our attorney, Gary C. Johnson, was passionate and brought this about."

The goal of the Pike County Re-Entry Partnership would be to rehabilitate people who are addicted to drugs.

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.

A man who owned pain clinics in Florida and Ohio has pleaded guilty in Kentucky to a federal charge of conspiracy to launder money. The U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement that 38-year-old Jody L. Robinson of Portsmouth, Ohio, entered the plea in federal court in Covington.

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear is encouraging his peers to join him in fighting prescription pill abuse. Beshear sent that message Tuesday at a prescription pill conference in Florida sponsored by Operation UNITE.