Senate panel and House OK bills to tackle prescription-bill abuse

Two bills aimed at attacking the state’s prescription drug abuse problem made headway yesterday, with a major difference between the House and Senate measures, reflecting possible turf battles between state agencies and doctors’ desire to maintain as much control over regulation as they can.

Senate Bill 2 would keep the state drug monitoring system — known as the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting, or KASPER — the responsibility of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. House Bill 4 would give it to the attorney general’s office.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 2 on an 8-to-1 vote. House Bill 4 passed the full House 81 to 7. The bills’ low numbers reflect their importance to legislative leaders in both chambers.
Lawmakers feel the issue will ultimately be taken up near the end of the session in a conference committee, whose members represent the House and Senate and come together to come to an agreement between the two chambers, reports Jack Brammer for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
SB 2 originally required that doctors use KASPER when dispensing narcotics and get a KASPER report before issuing a prescription. At the request of the Kentucky Medical Association, bill sponsor Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, changed that stipulation, requiring the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board, made up mainly of doctors, to issue regulations on how doctors should use KASPER. Higdon said he made the change in order to get the bill out of committee, a move that angered Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, who accused the KMA of trying to “gut the bill.” (Read more)
HB 4 would still require the use of KASPER, used by only less than a third of doctors, and “would bolster regulation on pain clinics and call on coroners to perform mandatory drug tests in cases of deaths with an unknown cause,” reports Tom Loftus for The Courier-Journal. “It also would give commonwealth’s and county attorneys access to the data in KASPER and would require that pain clinics be owned by a licensed physician or an advanced practice registered nurse.” SB 2 would allow only doctors to own pain clinics, but Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, said clinics with non-physician owners should be grandfathered in if they have not have previous problems with the law.
As for whether the KASPER should stay in the cabinet or go to the attorney general, Sen. Tom Jensen, R-London, said he doesn’t has one strong feeling over the other. “We have to make sure the enforcement is there, whoever is doing it. properly,” he told Ryan Alessi on CN|2’s “Pure Politics.” 
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