Attorney general wants more state regulations for Suboxone clinics

Published: Apr. 13, 2017 at 5:16 PM EDT
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To battle the state’s drug addiction crisis, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear wants to see more regulations for the clinics giving out the drug Suboxone.

"It is a real problem,” Beshear said. “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."

Beshear wants Suboxone clinics to be required to take Medicaid, and require what he called "real" counseling. He also wants clinics to be owned by doctors or at least partially owned by doctors.

"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," Beshear said.

Suboxone is a prescription medication that can help treat opioid addiction.

Many Kentuckians say the medication has saved their lives. Many in law enforcement say it's highly abused.

"Mostly, we're seeing the Suboxone problem right now in southeastern Kentucky where it's a highly trafficked drug," saidf Greg Wolfe, an investigator with the state attorney general's office. "It's probably the main trafficked drug in southeast Kentucky right now."

WKYT's Miranda Combs sat down with Wolfe and Beshear, who said Suboxone's abuse is being instigated by rogue clinics, ones out for profit and not patients.

"We have people that we love and care about that go to those clinics and if they're not being treated the right way, if they're not getting true recovery-type services, it's a huge disservice," Wolfe said.

Beshear said you can look to the past for a guaranteed fix. Pill mill legislation from 2012 shut down a lot of unscrupulous pain clinics.

"We've been successful with this once before with passing law and it's, I think, similar what you need to be do with the Suboxone clinics," Wolfe said.