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Law Provides More Efficient Medical Treatment

Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Midwives

Nurse-practitioners and midwives in Kentucky will now be able to prescribe non-narcotic medications without having a written agreement with a doctor.

According to health-care advocate Sheila Schuster, the changes in the law, signed by the governor, will address what she calls the "unmet needs" of thousands of Kentuckians. That means "particularly in rural and in under-served areas of Kentucky," Schuster said.

Schuster said nurse-practitioners have been able to prescribe non-narcotic medications since 1996, but only if they had an agreement with a physician.

For about five years, she says, they tried to convince state lawmakers to end the requirement. She explained such an agreement did not require supervision or oversight by doctors, but they often charged a hefty fee for it.

AARP Kentucky volunteer Brenda McClanahan said it will now be easier for many seniors to get the medications they need to treat chronic conditions, "such as antibiotics, insulin and other diabetes medicines; anti-hypertension, cholesterol, heart and asthma medications."

McClanahan said using a nurse-practitioner also could lead to more cost-effective care. Similar laws are already in place in 17 other states. Sheila Schuster said the new law opens the door for more Kentucky nurse-practitioners to establish their own practices.

"In some of these areas, the nurse-practitioner is the only provider of health care in that community," Schuster said.

The state's nearly 3000 nurse-practitioners provide care in all 120 Kentucky counties, including all 87 of the state's Health Provider Shortage Areas. 

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