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April 25, 2013

Bill to crack down on ‘pill mills’ goes to governor

Ron Grooms authored the bill, with Steve Stemler’s support

INDIANAPOLIS — Legislation that would give the Indiana Attorney General new authority to review medical records at pain management clinics across the state is on its way to the governor’s desk.

The bill’s final language, approved Monday by the House, is aimed at shutting down thinly regulated pain management clinics around the state.

Authored by Jeffersonville pharmacist and Republican State Sen. Ron Grooms, Senate Bill 246 creates a new level of oversight for prescribers of controlled substances, including commonly abused prescription pain medications like hydrocodone and oxycodone.

It requires that owners of facilities — commonly known as pill mills — who employ or contract with individuals to dispense controlled substances must maintain a controlled substance registry. The bill also requires every pain management clinic in Indiana be owned and operated by someone who holds a valid registration to prescribe controlled substances.

And it also gives the Attorney General more tools to investigate clinics that are suspected of over-prescribing controlled substances and fueling addictions. It creates a process that allows the Attorney General’s office to ask the state medical licensing board for permission to inspect medical records at pain clinics. Currently, the only way for the AG’s office to access those records is to wait for law enforcement to serve a search warrant as part of a criminal investigation.

Democrat Steve Stemler of Jeffersonville worked with Grooms on crafting the bill, after seeing a rise in the suspected pill mills in his district.

“They promote serious drug addiction,” Stemler said. “Right now, Indiana’s laws are so lax, so this bill would tighten oversight in regulation over these facilities.

The bill also requires the Indiana Health Finance Commission to study the use of methadone and opioids in treatment programs and clinic settings.

Grooms said Indiana has had a chronic problem with abuse of prescription drugs, and cited a federal government survey that found Indiana has the second highest rate of high school students who have taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription.

“We need to take steps to make sure this dangerous trend does not continue,” Grooms said.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller supported the legislation. He’s filed actions to revoke the state medical licenses of 14 pain-management doctors in Indiana since the start of 2012, based on their over-prescribing of pain pills.

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