In order to stem the rising tide of drug abuse and addiction in Kentucky, Attorney General Andy Beshear announced that he wants to see more regulations for clinics distributing the drug Suboxone. Suboxone is a treatment option for addicts seeking to safely withdraw from opioid addiction.
Suboxone in Kentucky
"It is a real problem. That doesn't mean it doesn't have legitimate uses. It does. But if we don't learn the lesson from pill mills and we allow our Commonwealth to be flooded through legal mean with these drugs that are being diverted, when shame on us." - KY Attorney General Andy Beshear.
The attorney general wants to see suboxone clinics around Kentucky to be required to take Medicaid, and include stricter guidelines when it comes to counseling and therapy options for users. He also wants to see more doctors stepping up to take responsibility for these clinics, instead of allowing business leaders focused on profits taking the reins. Known as “pill mills”, some states have seen Suboxone and similar Methadone clinics turn into a revolving door of addicts getting hooked on more prescription medication.
"What we saw with pill mills is sometimes even felons would own these clinics through an LLC and they would just hire a doctor to come in. If their doctor was illegally prescribing and lost his or her license because of that, well they'd just go hire another doctor," - KY Attorney General Andy Beshear.
One clinic with locations throughout Kentucky was charged with a lawsuit by the Attorney General for illegally prescribing thousands of doses of Suboxone without incorporating proper medical advice or individual treatment options. Suboxone abuse is being perpetrated by unscrupulous business seeking to make a buck off of vulnerable addicts.
"Mostly, we're seeing the Suboxone problem right now in southeastern Kentucky where it's a highly trafficked drug. It's probably the main trafficked drug in southeast Kentucky right now."- Greg Wolfe, State Investigator for the Attorney General's office.
Suboxone is a prescription medication that can be administered in pills, strips, films, or even intravenously. Use of the drug has divided citizens and lawmakers over the viability as a form of treatment for opioid abuse, which has undoubtedly become a national epidemic. It’s especially hard to hear of these clinics improperly prescribing this medication when these people need help more than ever.
The centers charged with the lawsuit were accused of taking advantage of the system, charging insurance for spending “15 minutes” with each patient, which turned out to be a mathematical impossibility given the staff numbers and amount of patients who cycled through the clinic. For example, the center write 136 Suboxone prescriptions on one day in 2017.
“The owners are strictly operating for profits and couldn’t care less about the health and safety of our families and neighbors who are struggling with addiction,” KY Attorney General Andy Beshear.
Beshear’s aim with the new legislation is to emphasize the use of Medicaid for acquiring treatment, opening up the clinics to those most likely to be affected by poverty. The new regulations will hopefully reduce the chances of abuse to take place, by putting specific parameters in for the amount of counseling centers must include as part of their treatment.
Other incidents of impropriety include a Lexington doctor who was charged in March with signing prescription forms for Suboxone and Methadone without even seeing the patients they were prescribed to.
If the Attorney General is successful in passing these stricter regulations, Kentucky could hopefully see a turn in the tide of drug abuse and deaths from overdose. At the moment, Kentucky is one of the states with the highest rate of drug abuse in the nation. In some counties the likelihood of dying from drug overdose is 5 times the national average, and the Appalachia region remains one of the worst regions in the nation when it comes to prescription pain pill abuse.
The problem in Kentucky is nothing new, in fact, the number of people abusing prescription drugs saw growth when those same users switched to the cheaper and more easy to find heroin. For reference, one OxyContin pill containing 80 mg could potentially cost anywhere from $50 to $100. Heroin is much cheaper and only costs about $9 per dose. Users are facing even greater dangers from the possibility of ingesting heroin laced with fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic pain killer known to stop hearts.
The most recent win scored by the Kentucky Attorney General is the lawsuit filed against Johnson & Johnson as well as two of its subsidiaries this past month. The lawsuit was over improper advertising of its drugs to possible patients without warning of the potential side effects and possibility for developing an addiction.
Looking towards the future
Landmark Recovery is proud to serve the Kentucky area, and we strive to successfully serve our patients by building strong, ethically-grounded relationships between each employee and each patient. These relationships outlast our treatment program and continue to serve the patient as long as necessary post-discharge. Our drug and alcohol recovery treatment methods encapsulate a wide variety of options to suit the different needs of different people. That’s why we’re excited to announce the arrival of our newest intensive outpatient facility in Lexington, set to debut by the end of the summer of 2018.
By expanding the Landmark brand even further throughout the Appalachia region, we are making progress towards fulfilling our commitment of restoring hope, tranquility and function to one million families over the next hundred years.