Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Group pushes more use of drug records

Doctors could check prescriptions

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A task force on prescription drug abuse wants authorities to make greater use of a state database that keeps track of who writes and receives prescriptions.

If the General Assembly consents, health officials would be given discretionary powers to seek out - without being asked by police and prosecutors - possibly improper prescribing by doctors, a leading source of pills for the illegal market.

The database - Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting, or KASPER - contains 35 million prescription records. The state Department for Public Health runs it under strict rules that require a formal complaint before an investigation can be opened.

Physicians can use the system to check whether patients are going to other physicians to get multiple prescriptions.

The task force, created by the General Assembly this year, is recommending a change in law to allow the department and the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure to use KASPER to spot offending doctors and patients before serious problems surface. Data would be used to chart trends and to pinpoint regional hot spots of pill use.

A second proposal would allow the licensure board, when investigating a physician, to expand its investigation to other doctors in the same practice or community without having to file additional complaints.

"We don't want to go on a witch hunt, but we'd like to do a little more," Dr. Danny Clark, chairman of the licensure board, said Monday. "We want to find those pockets where a number of physicians are prescribing inappropriately rather than find them one at a time."

The task force was not unanimous on the idea. Jerry Cox, a task force member who is a defense attorney from Mount Vernon, said the database could be misused for political or other motives.

"Not all of law enforcement are the intelligent, well-dressed people we have here," Cox said.

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