Missouri may soon change its status as the only state not to have a statewide prescription drug monitoring database

Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 6:08 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - On Tuesday the Missouri Senate passed Senate Bill 63, which establishes a statewide prescription drug monitoring program to address the ongoing opioid crisis. This is the tenth time a bill like this has gone through the process and its fate now rests in the hands of Governor Mike Parson, who has indicated in the past that he supports such a program.

Missouri is the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program and for years there have been failed attempts to bring the Show Me State in line with the rest of the country.

Dr. Howard Jarvis works at the emergency room at Cox South and is very familiar with the power of controlled substances.

“Every day we see a lot of patients that have problems with opioid addiction,” he said. “It’s a very real, major problem in our country. Typically in Missouri we have 950 to 1,050 patients-per-year that die of opioid overdose.”

That’s why Jarvis, who’s testified in Jeff City numerous times about the need for a new system, is happy the Missouri legislature has finally established a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.

While many health care providers have been using an independent database out of St. Louis County, this new statewide system will be integrated with others around the country as a tool for doctors and pharmacists to spot patients who are abusing their prescriptions and risking addiction.

Don’t worry. The tracking system is not intended as an intrusive“Big Brother” all-knowing, all-seeing entity that tracks every pill you take.

“It’s certainly not all medications.,” Jarvis said. “Things like allergy medications and pills for your heart or blood pressure are not included.”

What is included are controlled substances such as opioid painkillers and some anti-anxiety drugs. In other words only those prescription medications that could be addictive or dangerous if overused

“The narcotic pain medications, if you take too much of them, it basically makes you quit breathing,” Jarvis said of the danger in overuse.

The database will allow health care providers to see if patients are abusing the system by going to multiple doctors and pharmacies to get more prescriptions.

And if they discover a problem?

“We have mental health experts and addiction medicine specialists that can work with them,” answered Dr. David Barbe, a Family Medicine Specialist with Mercy. “There’s medication-assisted treatment now that allows a safer drug to take the place of the more harmful or dangerous drugs.”

It’s also important to note that the database is intended for medical use, not for law enforcement.

“The good thing about this bill that passed is that it has been refined over a number of years to really narrow down those medications that are most likely to cause problems,” Barbe said. “I absolutely understand the privacy concerns of those who have objected to the previous versions. This one really limits the number of people who have access to this information. It cannot be arbitrarily accessed by law enforcement. If there are complaints against a prescriber or a particular issue with respect to a given patient, there are some means to be accessed but it is not an open book for law enforcement or any other regulatory body.”

The new system may not be up for a while.

“The statute itself calls for a two year implementation timeline,” Barbe said. “You have to design the software and arrange for an orderly transition of information. So it will probably be a year or two before we see the statewide system that is enabled by this legislation.”

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