I promised Lynn and Karen I would do all I could to combat the scourge of prescription pill abuse by increasing investigations into overprescribing physicians, prescription trafficking, doctor shopping and illegal out-of-state pharmacies. I also vowed to help educate Kentucky kids about the dangers of taking medications that are not prescribed to them. I am pleased to say we have made tremendous progress on both fronts.
Since August of 2009, my Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force has been involved in more than 130 prescription drug diversion investigations resulting in the arrest of 50 individuals on 194 counts. Some of our investigations have focused on overprescribing physicians and so-called ‘pill mills,’ that flood our communities with some of the most addictive and dangerous substances on the planet.
One case in particular involved a pain management center in Paintsville operated by Dr. Richard Albert. A year-long undercover investigation by my task force revealed that Dr. Albert prescribed an average of 105,000 prescription pills per month and saw about 55 patients a day, charging $200 a visit. These pills were being prescribed with little to no examination. Our findings resulted in a federal indictment against Dr. Albert on one count of conspiracy to distribute drugs without a legitimate medical purpose.
We are also extremely proud of our involvement in Operation Flamingo Road, Kentucky’s largest prescription drug-bust in history that resulted in felony arrest warrants for more than 500 people in October of 2009. This is one of 14 drug round-ups we have participated in since 2009.
Additionally, our involvement with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Tactical Diversion Squad, as well as Gov. Steve Beshear’s newly formed Interstate Prescription Drug Task Force, will allow my office to intensify its efforts to stem the flow of illicit prescription pills into Kentucky from other states.
My drug diversion task force has allowed us to strengthen our partnership with local law enforcement. We have representatives from law enforcement agencies across Kentucky including the Morehead, Manchester, Hazard, Prestonsburg and Owensboro police departments as well as Menifee, Floyd, and Rowan county sheriff’s departments.
I am also working with attorneys general across the country to ensure that prescription drug monitoring programs, similar to Kentucky’s KASPER system, are implemented in all 50 states. My work with Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi helped ensure that her state adopted an electronic prescription drug monitoring system to help stem the deadly tide of pain pills flowing into Kentucky from Florida.
Programs like KASPER are essential to combating doctor shopping and overprescribing physicians. Here in Kentucky, I look forward to continuing to work with the medical community to identify ways KASPER can be better utilized by physicians.
We are also making great strides in our effort to alert Kentucky families to the deadly consequences of prescription pill abuse. Through the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program I launched last fall with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, Kentucky Pharmacists Association, National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI), Operation UNITE and concerned parents, I’ve spoken to thousands of students, faculty and parents across Kentucky about this very serious threat.
At each program, I am alarmed by the large number of students who raise their hands when I ask them if they know someone who has abused prescription drugs. I also continue to be moved by the stories students share with me about loved ones who have struggled with this issue.
Prescription drug abuse is an all-hands on deck issue. We need to work closely with our law enforcement partners, both in and outside of Kentucky, our medical community, our schools and our parents to fight what is one of the biggest threats to youth today. If we lose this battle, we are in jeopardy of losing an entire generation of kids.
I know I can count on my fellow Kentuckians in every corner of this great Commonwealth to join with us in making our state a safer place to live, work and raise a family.
— Jack Conway is the Kentucky Attorney General.