Kentucky in 'Top 3' for drug overdose deaths

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) – Because of the government shutdown, grants at the University of Kentucky's College of Pharmacy have been stalled and there's uncertainty about where vital research dollars will come from.

Meanwhile, a new study places Kentucky in the top three nationally, when it comes to fatal drug overdoses and work to curb that could suffer because of the uncertainty in Washington.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky ranks in the top three when it comes to states with the most fatal drug overdoses.

The number has shot up in the last decade from more than 200 in the year 2000 to about 1,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2010.

Jeffrey Talbert, Ph.D. heads up pharmaceutical policy study at UK.

He says the state is doing all it can to shore up the problem.

"The article is like a checklist for how to prevent drug abuse," said Talbert. "Kentucky is doing nine out of 10 things right. The 10th item is the Good Samaritan Law and we were close to passing that in the last legislative session."

So, why the bleak numbers cited in the report?

Talbert says the findings don't reflect recent legislation aimed at making doctors and pharmacists more accountable under what's known as Kentucky's KASPER system, which requires them to report prescriptions they write to the state.

"Not only have prescription drug-monitoring programs reduced the supply of drugs, but we've also reformulated them," he said. "Opiodes, we've made them harder to crush and abuse."

Meanwhile, research trials at the university, critical in tackling the drug abuse epidemic, were put on hold because of the stalemate in Washington.

"Everything's kind of frozen. We can't talk to our program officers, we can't file reports. So, we're just kindof waiting for the government to open up again."

If a doctor comes under scrutiny from a medical board review over their KASPER record, according to Talbert, they could have their license revoked.

Dr. Talbert says under Medicaid expansion next year, patients will now be covered for prescription drug abuse treatment.

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