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Critics say Ky. prescription-drug law has negatives

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear recently touted the success of a new law that cracks down on prescription-drug abuse. But critics of the law complain those claims are overblown and the law's negative effects are being ignored.

But not all physicians agree with that assessment.

House Bill 1 requires doctors to comply with a series of medical standards before prescribing controlled substances. It also beefs up regulations on pain management clinics and mandates use of the state's drug tracking system, known as KASPER.

Beshear released figures last month as proof of the new law's success, but a Courier-Journal review of the figures paints a more nuanced picture of the law's effectiveness.For example, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure disciplined 33 physicians in the prior six months for violating professional prescription standards. But the newspaper found that 16 of the cases were resolved before the law took effect on July 20, and 13 others involved investigations or actions that were well under way before the law's implementation.

The administration also reported that 18 of the 44 known pain management clinics in Kentucky have closed or discontinued pain management services, including 10 after House Bill 1 took effect. But state records are unclear if all the clinics were suspected of illegal prescribing.

Local leaders and residents there say they have seen out-of-state vehicles from Eastern Kentucky and Ohio flocking to the facility.

And the administration's analysis credited the law for a 7.5 percent drop in hydrocodone prescriptions, a 6.4 percent decline in oxycodone, a 9 percent decrease in alprazolam and a 38 percent drop in oxymorphone.

Beshear called that "anecdotal conjecture" from opponents who are trying to scare patients.

"We need a meaningful law to not only curb the madness of addiction, but also to provide better education and understanding among patients and physicians alike of how to avoid abuse," the governor said. The law "is a critical first step, and although we might tweak it to make it more effective, we will not abandon it."
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