Legislation aiming to curb prescription pain killer abuse in state meets final Senate vote

(NASHVILLE, TN), April 21, 2011 — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) won passage of legislation in the State Senate today designed to curb the abuse of prescription drugs at pain clinics in Tennessee.  Yager said the bill is a result of “the efforts of the Tennessee Medical Association, in concert with the Tennessee Nurses Association and the Academy of Physicians Assistants, to regulate their own industry in order to allow pain clinics to better serve their patients.”

Tennessee ranks second in the nation in regard to the overutilization of prescription pain medications, having exceeded the national average for controlled substance use for many years.  Some claim that the proliferation of unscrupulous operators of pain clinics, often referred to as “pill mills,” contribute to this problem.  

“We have a very serious problem in this state with the overutilization of pain medications,” said Senator Yager.  “This bill allows the professional groups to work together to regulate the operation of these clinics in this state in a framework that will allow legitimate pain clinics to serve their patients, while tightening the control to help curb the abuses that we are experiencing.”  

Senate Bill 1258 requires the Department of Health, in concert with the doctors, nurses and physician assistants, to establish rules to govern the operation of clinics, including personnel, patient records, data collection and reporting, inspections, health and safety requirement and patient billing.  No pain management clinic will be allowed to operate without a certificate from the Department of Health.  Under the bill, the Department may deny a certificate to anyone who has committed a felony or a misdemeanor related to the distribution of illegal prescription drugs or a controlled substance. 

In addition, the legislation prescribes that the boards of medical examiners, osteopathic examination and nursing, as well as the committee on physician assistants, will regulate their own members who practice in a pain clinic. These boards will have the authority to examine pain clinics, their staff and patient records, to ensure compliance with the rules. They will also have the authority to investigate complaints.  Professionals violating the statute or rules are subject to personal fines.

The legislation also requires the presence of a medical doctor licensed to practice in Tennessee on site at least eight hours a week.  Cash transactions are banned under the bill, except for insurance co-pays, coinsurance or deductibles, creating a paper trail on every transaction.

“Many pain management clinics in the state operate according to medical protocols and deliver a critical service to help their patients,” added Yager.  “Unfortunately, there are also some in this industry who are cash cows for themselves and their owners to get rich with a callus disregard of the destroyed lives left behind.  This bill is a significant step forward in working to curb this abuse.” 



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