As a bipartisan group of political leaders pushes the General Assembly to pass a bill Thursday that would crack down on "pill mills" that contribute to prescription drug abuse, Eastern Kentucky's Operation UNITE has organized a national summit in Florida. The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit aims to "foster understanding and cooperation among those involved in the battle against the epidemic," reports Laura Ungar for The Courier-Journal.
The event starts today in Orlando and is expected to draw 700 people. "I think it's important because Kentucky's not an island ... This truly needs to be a national effort, standing up against the problem," Karen Kelly, president and CEO of Operation UNITE, which serves Eastern Kentucky's Fifth Congressional District, told Ungar. Tuesday's agenda will include an address by Gov. Steve Beshear and Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, the U.S. surgeon general. About 1,000 Kentuckians died last year from prescription drug abuse, more than the number of people who died in car accidents. But while Beshear, Attorney General Jack Conway and key legislators in both parties push to pass a bill that would crack down on the problem, the Kentucky Medical Association is pushing back. An editorial Sunday in the Lexington Herald-Leader says the KMA "should support the effort to pass this bill and fight this killer." It said, "Drug abuse is not a problem society dumps at the door of physicians. It's one deeply entwined with how we deliver medical care and police the providers."
Today, 15 business lobbying groups issued a press release calling on the legislature to pass the bill, noting that it would "limit direct dispensing of narcotics at a physician’s office to no more than a 48-hour supply. This will help control the supply of narcotics and allow for better monitoring of prescription drug abuse." Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, said in the release, “Businesses large and small, rural and urban are all experiencing cost increases due to prescription drug abuse. Drug abuse is not only a social problem, it is a bottom-line business issue for Kentucky employers.”
Besides the Chamber, other groups joining in the release were the Kentucky Association of Manufacturers, Associated General Contractors, the Home Builders Association of Kentucky, Kentuckians for Better Transportation, the Kentucky Coal Association, Coal Operators and Associates, the Kentucky chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and local chambers in Louisville, Lexington, Northern Kentucky, Southeast Kentucky, Christian County and Hardin County.
Meanwhile, the legal battle against prescription-pill abuse continues. Last week, a Christian County jury found three men guilty of mailing large amounts of oxycodone from Florida to Kentucky. Peter Nibert, 27, of Pasco County, Fla., is believed to have mailed more than 3,000 pills in 2010. Cary Alder, 24, and Scotty Highsmith, 26, both of Hopkinsville were sentenced 10 and 15 years respectively for their part in the scheme.
Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.