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Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Yet Again A Sticking Point For Missouri Legislators

Samuel King
KCUR 89.3
Members of the Missouri House of Representatives debate the chamber's prescription drug monitoring bill on Wednesday.

Missouri remains the only state without a statewide prescription drug monitoring program, though it is a step closer. Again. 

The House debated the bill, which aims to stop the overprescription of opioids, for more than four hours on Wednesday, casting an initial vote in favor. A final vote could come as soon as Thursday.

This year’s House bill was sponsored, as in the past, by Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston.

“This is not a silver bullet and I’m not saying it’s a silver bullet. This is a cornerstone in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” Rehder said. “And we must allow our medical professionals to have this information about their patient so they can make the best decisions.”

Despite the support of Gov. Mike Parson and other key leaders, some Republicans are still opposed to the program, citing concerns about privacy and apparent effectiveness in other states like Ohio, which is still dealing with an opioid abuse crisis despite the monitoring program.

Two representatives tried to offer amendments that would require physicians to use the database. The current bill requires pharmacists who dispense narcotics to report information to the database, but it does not require pharmacists or physicians to use to the database before dispensing or prescribing drugs.

“Let’s really make it work, let’s go after the 49 states where it’s failing and mimic what they’re doing,” said Rep. Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis. “I know we’re called the Show-Me State, but show me something that works and let’s do that.”

Rehder objected, saying that the bill has failed when such an amendment is added. She also said other states have seen success with their programs, and none has moved to repeal them.

Both the House and Senate bills would phase out the prescription drug monitoring program established by St. Louis County in 2016 in response to a lack of action at the state level. Half of the state’s counties, including Jackson and Clay, have joined the program. But many others, mostly in rural areas have not. That includes Platte and Ray Counties.

The Senate’s version is sponsored by Parkville Republican Tony Lutkemeyer and didn’t make it out of the chamber’s Seniors, Family and Children Committee on Wednesday because the committee deadlocked with a 3-3 vote. But Lutkemeyer said the Senate will likely consider the House bill soon.

“And so assuming we get that bill over here rather quickly we’ll take that up and move that process over here on the Senate side,” Lutkemeyer said. “So I really view this as a minor hiccup.”

Samuel King is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow him on Twitter: @SamuelKingNews

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