Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear told a drug summit Tuesday that the 50 states need to link their prescription drug monitoring programs if the nation is going crack down on pill mills and painkiller abuse.
Beshear told 700 people at the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit in Lake Buena Vista that prescription painkiller abuse "a scourge and an epidemic" that is "causing untold misery on families, filling jails and treatment centers and draining our resources."
The three-day summit at Walt Disney World was organized by the Kentucky-based Operation UNITE and includes government officials, law enforcement officers, pharmacists and doctors.
Kentucky has one of the nation's highest rates of prescription drug overdose deaths, with more than 1,000 each year. That's more than the number who die on that state's highways, Beshear said.
"Our medicine cabinets are more dangerous than our cars," said U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky. "This epidemic touches people from the Hollywood Hills to the Appalachian Mountains."
Beshear said the states must pull together to educate, treat and prevent drug abuse.
"We've been dealing with this problem on a statewide basis for a long time," Beshear said, but it now needs to have a "national face."
The governor also urged Kentucky legislators to pass House Bill 4 before their session ends Thursday. The bill will require pain management clinics be owned by licensed physicians and give the attorney general control of prescription monitoring data.
"We have one day left to act," Beshear said. "Kentucky is not an island — this is a national problem requiring both federal help and nationwide solutions to be effective.
The governor said legitimate doctors and pharmacists have nothing to fear from prescription drug monitoring but "pill pushers in white coats are the ones we want to run out of business."
U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin agreed with Beshear, saying a national drug monitoring plan will require education and a unified plan of action.
"We have to address this epidemic and insure that people who have legitimate pain can get the medication they need when they need it," Benjamin said.