Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 3, 2013

Zoeller backs pill mill bill

He says pain pill abuse is an 'epidemic' in U.S.

When Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller talks about the prescription drug abuse epidemic in Indiana, he often mentions former Scott County Coroner Kevin Collins, who decided not to seek re-election last year.

“He just couldn’t take it anymore. He kept taking teenagers out of homes where they’d overdosed. In a short span he had 26 deaths, almost all of them young kids,” Zoeller said during an interview with the Tribune this week.

For the past two years, Zoeller has been focused on a problem which now has overtaken car accidents as a leading cause of death for young people.

He’s filed actions to revoke the state medical licenses of 14 doctors since the start of 2012, including four doctors in the Kokomo area.

He’s trying to get the Indiana General Assembly to give him new authority to review medical records at pain management clinics across the state, and he’s lobbying federal officials to take a more aggressive role in combating the flood of narcotic pills.

“By the time the Centers for Disease Control lists it as an epidemic, it’s not just a loose term being used for description,” Zoeller said. “Each year, you can see this thing get worse and worse.”

For the past two decades, overdose fatalities have risen steadily. The death rate is now four times what it was 20 years ago.

And Zoeller, whose authority is largely limited to asking the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana to revoke medical licenses, is seeking more weapons for his arsenal.

It appears he’s about to get them.

Monday the Indiana House passed a bill aimed at shutting down thinly regulated pain management clinics around the state. With the Senate expected to concur on slight changes made in the House, the bill appears headed to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who is expected to sign the measure.

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