Senator Yager wins passage of bill aiming to curb prescription pain killer abuse in state

(NASHVILLE, TN), April 6, 2011 — State Senator Ken Yager (R-Harriman) won passage of legislation in the Senate General Welfare, Health and Human Services Committee 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.” 

“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 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.”  

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.  A national report conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that pain reliever abuse nationwide was involved in almost 10 percent of admissions for treatment of teenagers and adults, up from two percent in the previous study a decade ago.  The study shows that Southern states reported the highest numbers, and the rise was especially pronounced among young adults ages 18 to 34.  It noted that roxicodone or oxycodone can be more easily obtained than heroin the South.

Senate Bill 1258, as amended would require all pain clinics in Tennessee to obtain a certificate by the Department of Health.  The Commissioner of Health, in consultation with the Boards of Medical Examiners, Osteopathic Examination, Nursing, and the Committee on Physician’s Assistants, would promulgate rules necessary to operate these clinics.  They would also have the authority to examine pain clinics, their staff and patient records, to ensure compliance with those rules.  This includes the ability to investigate complaints or violations.  Under the bill, the respective boards would be authorized to take action against violators.

The bill would require pain clinics to operate under the supervision of a duly licensed medical director who must spend at least eight hours per week on site.  In order to assure a paper trail is created to ensure transparency for all transactions, the bill prohibits cash payments for services, except when a third party payer is billed.  Finally, the measure establishes that a paid management facility may not be owned by a person convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor when the facts of that misdemeanor are related to the distribution of illegal prescription drugs or a controlled substance. 

“This bill is a very good starting point to begin to address the problems we face in Tennessee with overutilization and abuse of prescription pain killers,” added Yager.  “I am optimistic about the bill’s chances for passage and believe it will make positive changes to curb abuse of these drugs.”

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