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Prescription Drug Monitoring Wins Missouri State Senate Approval

For years, Missouri has been the only state in the country that doesn’t monitor prescription drugs, but that may be about to change.

The Missouri Senate on Thursday, by a 24-10 vote, approved a bill that would create a drug monitoring program that addresses some of the privacy concerns raised by opponents. The vote marked the first time the Senate has approved such a program.

Supporters say the state’s failure to track prescription-drug painkillers has encouraged their abuse and made Missouri a magnet for those seeking to stockpile drugs for illicit use or sale.

The Senate bill, SB 63, sponsored by Sen. David Sater, a Republican of Cassville, requires that the information be encrypted and sets a 180-day limit on keeping prescription information.

The bill’s enhanced privacy protections came, in part, from a bill sponsored by Sen. Rob Schaaf, a Republican of St. Joseph, which was combined with SB 63. Schaaf has long been one of the Legislature’s strongest opponents of drug monitoring.

The Missouri Pharmacy Association, which supports drug monitoring, reluctantly supported the plan.

“The bill probably doesn’t meet everything we would like to see in a bill,” says Ron Fitzwater, CAE of the Missouri Pharmacy Association. “But the legislative process is the art of compromise.”

Fitzwater says the MHA prefers a monitoring system that includes a searchable database of patients’ prescription drug histories. He’s hopeful that one will be created down the road.

“The options are doing nothing, which we have done for year after year after year, or trying to get the best bill we can,” Fitzwater says. “You’ve always got the option in future years to come back and make the adjustment.”

The bill next goes to the Missouri House, where a drug monitoring bill was approved last year before it died in the Senate.

Representative Kevin Engler, a Republican of Farmington who sponsored monitoring bills in the House for the past three sessions, could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

Alex Smith is a reporter for KCUR, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team.

As a health care reporter, I aim to empower my audience to take steps to improve health care and make informed decisions as consumers and voters. I tell human stories augmented with research and data to explain how our health care system works and sometimes fails us. Email me at alexs@kcur.org.
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