In November 2008, the Lexington Herald-Leader tackled this growing problem head-on by calling public attention to an illegal drug ring involving hundreds of Kentuckians. The story profiled a Florida physician and 10 Kentuckians who were recently convicted of acquiring powerful painkillers from a Florida clinic, only to return to Kentucky to sell the pills on the streets. Potential profit per month for these illegal, interstate drug traffickers can average around $6,400. While raising public awareness is a step in the right direction, more concrete action must be taken to reverse this alarming, dangerous trend.
As far back as 1998, Kentucky realized the severity of prescription drug diversion and "doctor shopping," the term commonly used for visiting multiple doctors to acquire numerous prescriptions for the same ailment. These two practices - which remain all too common in our state - are directly harmful not only to individuals but to families and communities across the Commonwealth.
In response to this, Kentucky created the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting system. KASPER became one of the first programs in the nation to provide physicians, pharmacies and law enforcement with electronic data on controlled substance prescriptions. KASPER has greatly restricted the practice of visiting multiple physicians for prescriptions and has had a profound, positive impact on decreased drug trafficking both within the Common-wealth and between Kentucky and neighboring states that have developed their own drug monitoring programs. Yet instead of resting on these successes, Kentucky must continue to curb the drug pipeline into the Commonwealth across other state lines, beginning with Florida.
Twice in recent years, the Florida legislature has tried and failed to pass legislation establishing a prescription monitoring program. However, 2009 is poised to be the year when this important legislation finally succeeds, with multiple bills in the Florida House and Senate taking aim at this pressing issue.
Along with the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy and the Inspector General of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, I am working closely with Florida health officials to help make prescription monitoring legislation a reality. I have high hopes that this legislation will be made into reality within the near future. Too many lives are being lost to this epidemic both in Florida and at home in Kentucky.
The importance of increased, interstate communication through technological means is imperative not only for drug trafficking, but for all areas of health care. This is why, in Kentucky, we are currently working to develop a national model for the creation of an electronic health care - e-health - network. I expect the KASPER program, Florida's potentially similar system, and the larger e-health network in the commonwealth to not only save lives and reduce the cost of health care, but also improve the quality of life for citizens day in and day out.
With KASPER - a proven and effective prescription monitoring program - as a model, Florida has the opportunity to put in place this legislative session a life-saving prescription drug monitoring system. Tracking these prescriptions and stopping interstate doctor shopping can be accomplished between Florida and the Commonwealth. I hope to provide all the support I can, both as lieutenant governor and as a medical doctor, to raise awareness about the importance of this initiative. This vicious cycle can - and must - be stopped.
Dan Mongiardo is lieutenant governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.