Major legislation to curb abuse of prescription drugs is approved in Senate Health and Welfare Committee
State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) won passage of legislation in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee this week designed to curb the abuse of prescription drugs in Tennessee. Yager said the bill is a result of “comprehensive and collaborative effort by citizens, legislators, law enforcement and medical professionals to enhance and tighten the regulations on prescribers and pain management clinics.”
Senate Bill 676 is named the Addison Sharp Prescription Regulatory Act of 2013. Addison Sharp was a resident of Knoxville, Tennessee whose young life was tragically cut short in 2012 by an overdose of prescription medication. Since this tragedy, his family has been working with legislators, law enforcement and medical professionals to attempt to decrease the number of lives being taken by this growing epidemic.
“Prescription drug abuse is at epidemic levels in Tennessee. It not only adversely affects the public health, but the public safety and economy. This legislation provides additional and useful tools to fight this scourge.”
Provisions of the bill would:
• Direct the Commissioner of Health to develop a standard of care on prescribing the most commonly abused prescription medications and provide this information to the various licensing boards who oversee prescribers;
• Require two hours of training for medical professionals every two years on these guidelines and other pertinent requirements such as medicine addiction and risk management;
• Limit the dispensing of Schedule II-IV drugs to 30 days. (The prescription may still be issued for 90 days, but this will limit it to a 30-day supply at a time);
• Require reporting to the Controlled Substance Monitoring Database by all prescribers who dispense at their offices;
• Clarify the definition of manufacturer and wholesaler of drugs and require the reporting of the drug distribution;
• Strengthen the definition of pain management clinics by closing a loophole in the law that has allowed some operators to avoid registration;
• Require a patient of pain management clinics to have a current and valid government-issued identification or health insurance card for monitoring purposes;
• Limit the medical director at pain management clinics to four clinics total;
• Limit money order payments as method to reimburse pain management clinics for services to put an end to cash business; and
• Enhance the fine for violations on unregistered clinics to between $1,000 – $5,000 per day to substantially impact those who choose to operate illegally.
“The current fine is considered just the cost of doing illegal business for unscrupulous pain clinic operators,” said Yager. “This will make the fines higher, while expanding who can be fined and the frequency of fines, to attack the problem of illegal operations in our state which contributes to our prescription drug problem.”
In other news on efforts to curb prescription drug abuse, Senator Yager led passage of Senate Bill 500 through the full Senate this week. The bill clarifies Tennessee’s TennCare Fraud law to make it easier to prosecute in the jurisdiction where law enforcement authorities made the arrest. The proposal also changes the phrasing in state law prohibiting “doctor shopping” to provide that a violation occurs when the TennCare benefits are used instead of when TennCare pays for the clinical visit or for the controlled substances. Written to stop fraudulent use of TennCare benefits, especially in the case of controlled substances, this law ensures that a person who knowingly sells, delivers or aids and abets fraud will face a Class E Felony, which includes mandatory jail time.