Rx for drug abuse and overdoses, House Bill 4
By: Jack Conway, Attorney General
Three people in Kentucky and 100 people in the United States will die today of prescription drug overdoses. Kentucky loses more than 1,000 people a year to the abuse of drugs like Xanax, Oxycodone and Methadone. Because only 55 percent of the total statewide accidental deaths are autopsied, we believe the number of overdose cases is actually double the reported figure.
Last month, I shared a few more troubling statistics with a Congressional subcommittee looking into ways to combat the scourge of prescription drug abuse. Kentucky is the fourth most-medicated state in the country, according to an analysis by Forbes Magazine. Today, prescription drug abuse kills more people in our state than car crashes.
My message to Congressman Mary Bono Mack and the rest of the subcommittee was clear—the time to act is now. That is also a message I have delivered to Kentucky lawmakers. I am hopeful everyone will support House Bill 4 during this legislative session. This legislation is an important step in our effort to fight a problem that is killing our people.
Prescription drug abuse has spread like wildfire across the Commonwealth and the nation over the past decade. The key to tackling this issue that bleeds across state lines is for each state to implement prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), similar to Kentucky’s KASPER system.
During my testimony, I urged the committee and the National Office of Drug Control Policy to create a grant program that would bring all states online with electronic prescription drug monitoring, and upgrade software for existing states so that all of our systems can communicate with each other. Currently, 48 states have passed monitoring laws, but only 38 have operational systems.
Legislation recently proposed by 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers (R-Somerset) will help us achieve this goal. His Interstate Drug Monitoring Efficiency and Data Sharing Act would create a standardized system to share data from PDMPs to combat interstate pill trafficking.
Prescription drug abuse is an issue that knows no party. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and I have worked tirelessly in a bipartisan effort to crack down on the deadly pill pipeline between our two states. Law enforcement believe more than 60 percent of the pills on the streets of Kentucky can be traced to Florida. In Fact, General Bondi told me that when her drug investigators raided a Broward County pain Clinic, 1,100 of the 1,700 medical records seized involved patients from Kentucky. That’s what we in law enforcement call “a clue.”
General Bondi has done a tremendous job taking on pill pushers dressed in white lab coats. Once home to 97 of the nation’s top 100 prescribers of Oxycodone, Florida is now down to just 13.
In addition to cracking down on overprescribing physicians, pill mills and prescription pill traffickers, I continue to travel the state with my Keep Kentucky Kids Safe partners to warn Kentucky kids about the dangers of abusing prescription pills. I am joined by Dr. Karen Shay, Lynn Kissick and Mike Donta, parents who have lost children to prescription pill addiction. Their stories of love, heartache and courage are touching the lives of kids in every corner of the Commonwealth. Together, we’ve alerted more than 10,000 students over the past year-and-a-half to the dangers of abusing pills that aren’t prescribed to them.
Our efforts are striking a chord with students and parents. After attending one of our programs, Erin Olsson, a freshman at North Oldham High School, wrote to me to say our program is “saving lives.” In a separate letter, a grieving mother offered her help and shared the story of her son, Kyle, who died from an overdose in 2010.
School by school, county by county, we are making a making a difference in the fight against prescription drug abuse. Our efforts even prompted the North Carolina Attorney General’s office to create an awareness program similar to Keep Kentucky Kids Safe.
Be assured, I will continue working in Frankfort, in Washington D.C. and in schools and communities across this great Commonwealth to see that we do not lose another generation to this insipid addiction.