Thursday, March 15, 2001

OxyContin plan in Ky. is 3-way

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FRANKFORT — A Kentucky task force charged with developing a plan to stop the illegal use of OxyContin set a timetable Wednesday to develop a statewide strategy.

        Members of at least 12 state agencies and representatives from Connecticut-based drug maker Purdue Pharma L.C. met for the first time to brainstorm ways to combat illicit use of the powerful painkiller.

        After a February Eastern Kentucky drug bust yielded more than 200 indictments, Gov. Paul Patton created the task force to bolster existing state initiatives to curb prescription drug abuse.

        Kentucky State Police Commissioner Ishmon Burks encouraged the law enforcement, health-care and legislative officials attending to develop strategies in their own fields and submit them by April 10.

        The plan, though not fully developed, will use a three-prong approach: education, enforcement and legislation.

        “I think we're off to a good start, a good first step,” Commissioner Burks said.

        After the plans are submitted and reviewed, the task force will meet again April 18 to finalize the proposal in Frankfort.

        Kentucky is ahead of many other states, such as West Virginia and Virginia, in tracking prescription drug abusers. Legislation created the Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system (KASPER) in 1998.

        It allows doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement officials to track prescriptions by patient, physician and pharmacy.

        The legislation that created KASPER also requires doctors prescribing narcotics to use tamper-resistant prescription pads that make forgery tougher. And it created new crimes. For example, it is now illegal to possess a forged prescription, and arrests have been made in Letcher County for using a personal computer to forge OxyContin prescriptions.

        But there is still much work to do in the commonwealth.

        Dana Droz of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, the agency that maintains the KASPER system, told the group Wednesday that more people and money are needed. Since KASPER was implemented, her office has responded to more than 51,000 requests for information - about 80 percent from doctors and 15 percent from law enforcement officials. .

        “It's eating up my investigators' time,” Ms. Droz said.


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