Battle over prescription drug monitoring renewed for 2016 Missouri legislative session

Dec 17, 2015

Updated 5:17 p.m., Dec. 18 -- Dueling versions of legislation would each create a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri, the only state that doesn't have one.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, announced Thursday that she would again be sponsoring the House version of the bill, which was pre-filed Friday.  It would give doctors and pharmacists easy access to recent drug purchases by patients as a way to combat doctor shopping.

"After Florida's inception of a prescription monitoring program, they saw a 24 percent decline in prescriptions for Oxycodone and an 8 percent decline for Methadone," Rehder said.  "Those are two drugs that are (the) most implicated in prescription drug overdoses and death."

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, talks about her pre-filed bill during a press conference Thursday at the Missouri Capitol.
Credit Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

On the other end of the spectrum is Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, who has long opposed efforts to create a prescription monitoring program. He says Rehder's bill would allow too much access to patient records and violate their privacy.

"That version of the bill puts every person's prescription drug data on a government database accessible by 30,000 people who would have a password," Schaaf said.  "That's outrageous."

He's sponsoring an alternate proposal that would create a drug monitoring program but limit access to the state narcotics bureau.

"Health care professionals could log on, and if this person had seen multiple physicians or had already received the medication that the doctor was dispensing, a flag would come up," Schaaf said.  "That way, they could get the knowledge that this person might be doctor shopping, but the (person's medical) information itself would be protected."

Rehder told reporters Thursday that she views her proposal as an extension of electronic medical records.

"It (would be) covered under HIPAA laws," she said. "To me, it's not a privacy issue, it's just giving a doctor, a physician, and a pharmacist a little bit more of a look on how to better take care of their patient."

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

Another big difference between the two proposals:  Schaaf's would put the issue before Missouri voters before it would become law.  And he seems to indicate that particular provision may be part of an overall strategy to defeat the effort to create a prescription drug monitoring program.

"I'd put it to a vote of the people, which I think people don't want to have their information on a drug database," Schaaf said, "especially given all of the databases that have been hacked recently."

Rehder said requiring a statewide vote would cause a significant delay in implementing a drug monitoring program, "time that we cannot spare, in my opinion."

The 2016 legislative session begins at noon Jan. 6.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:  @MarshallGReport