PRESTONSBURG – Kentucky’s efforts to monitor the sale of prescription drugs continues to be among the best in the country, but there is still much to be accomplished, the head of a national monitoring initiative told members of UNITE’s Medical Advisory Council Thursday, January 20.

“The problem is growing worse rapidly,” said John Eadie, director of the PMP Center of Excellence at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. “The rate of drug-related deaths continues to rise. There is no longer the time for niceties. We need to intervene early.”

More than two dozen people representing a diverse array of professions from across the region participated in the Council meeting.

“Coroners, health departments, hospitals, chiropractors, pharmacists, doctors, dentists, social workers, judges, schools, city and county officials – each person sees the tragic result of prescription drug abuse from a different perspective,” said Karen Kelly, director of UNITE. “The strength of this Council will be it’s collective voice.”

Coordinated prescription drug monitoring programs (PMPs) are currently operating in 34 of the 43 states and territories that have authorized them.

“You guys have taken the lead as a state,” Eadie said. “I’m here to suggest that Kentucky, along with some other states, can serve as a model for the next generation of prescription monitoring programs.”

The Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system has evolved to become an efficient and useful tool in identifying prescribing trends and potential abuse since its launch in 1999, said Dave Hopkins, KASPER project manager for the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Medical providers who utilized KASPER reports in 2010 overwhelmingly say they are satisfied with the system (93.8%), according to a just completed study, Hopkins said, adding there is a huge need for more medical practitioners to utilize KASPER data.

Van Ingram, executive director for the Kentucky Office on Drug Control Policy, said he would like to see all licensed prescribers have a KASPER account, stricter regulations for pain clinics, and require a certain level of continuing education for medical professionals.

Specific topics where greater education may be needed include:

• The value of KASPER as a tool for providing proper patient care through informed decisions
• How prescription drugs are being used illegally
• What can be done when a patient is found misusing or abusing a prescribed narcotic
• Addiction as a disease

Members of UNITE’s Medical Advisory Council agreed to make practitioner education a top priority in the coming months. A committee was named to craft a proposal that can be discussed at their next meeting, scheduled for Thursday, March 3.

“(The drug issue) is such a monumental problem that it causes problems in every issue we deal with (in the General Assembly),” said state Rep. Leslie Combs, who represents the 94th District. “You start solving this problem and you start solving lots of other problems.”

All medical practitioners are encouraged to lend their expertise to the Council, created to advise UNITE’s Board of Directors.