Kentucky will sign an agreement to share and receive prescription drug dispensing data with at least 20 other states, which will help the state monitor prescription drug abuse, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Tuesday. The Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) program has joined the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy’s Prescription Monitoring Program InterConnect (PMP InterConnect), which facilitates the transfer of information to authorized users in other states.
Specifically, the PMP InterConnect links participating programs to provide a more effective means of combating drug diversion and drug abuse nationwide.
“The blight of prescription drug abuse is tearing our families and communities apart, and we must use every tool available to attack this deadly scourge on our state,” Beshear said in a statement released by his office. “One of our key strategies is sharing information with surrounding states, so that we can not only cut off access to abusers, but also identify the problem prescribers.”
KASPER is currently administered through the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Twenty states have already agreed to participate in the Interconnect program, and more are in discussions with program administrators.
The need for prescription drug abuse tracking and surveillance is great, particularly in Kentucky, which has the highest rate of opioid abuse in the country, according to a recent report from the Kentucky State Epidemiological Outcomes Workgroup. In Kentucky, prescription drug deaths have begun to outnumber the amount of deaths attributed to motor vehicle accidents, according to a state press release.
PMP InterConnect will enhance the benefits of the KASPER system by providing the means for Kentucky prescribers and pharmacists to more easily identify patients with prescription drug abuse and misuse problems, especially if that patient is crossing state lines to obtain those drugs. Kentucky law enforcement and regulatory agencies will have access to the information as well to assist in the investigation of illegal drug abuse and diversion of controlled substances across state lines.
Several states, including Kentucky, currently allow a prescriber, dispenser or law enforcement officer from another state to register and obtain access to their prescription monitoring program. However, due to the effort required to establish and maintain separate accounts with each state and review multiple reports and formats, only a limited number of practitioners and law enforcement officers have done so.
“KASPER - as well as all other states’ prescription monitoring programs - would be more effective if data included all controlled substance prescriptions for a patient regardless of the state in which they were dispensed,” said Dave Hopkins, who coordinates the KASPER program. “In fact, this is something our KASPER users have asked for and overwhelmingly support.”
The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) is paying for all costs associated with the development and implementation of the PMP InterConnect, as well as five years of annual fees for each participating state prescription drug monitoring program.
Legislative Efforts Underway
Beshear supports legislative efforts to attack prescription drug abuse. House Bill 4, sponsored by Speaker Greg Stumbo, would significantly expand the reach (KASPER) by requiring all prescription providers to register and use the system. The bill also creates new standards for information sharing among licensure boards and investigators, and requires regular data review of KASPER reports to root out unusually high prescribing rates for further investigation.
Senate Bill 2, sponsored by state Sen. Jimmy Higdon, focuses on pain management clinics. The bill would require that these facilities be owned by a physician and properly licensed.
Education, Interstate Cooperation Efforts Continue
Last fall, Beshear announced that the Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded a $60,000 grant to Operation UNITE, a regional anti-drug initiative in 29 southern and eastern Kentucky counties. The ARC has directed the grant be used to support several educational summits across the state for physicians and dispensers.
Beshear and Attorney General Jack Conway will coordinate the summits that will be held in the coming months. Operation UNITE, a state drug initiative, expects these summits will train approximately 1,000 health care providers.
Kentucky also hosted the first meeting of a new Interstate Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force this summer. The task force is composed of representatives from Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee and includes representatives from government, law enforcement, health care, and advocacy groups.
The group is developing ways states can work together to choke off the so-called “pill pipeline” of illegal prescription drugs streaming into those states from the south.