Prescription Drugs

Michael Velardo | Flickr

Gov. Jay Nixon has signed into law legislation to expand access to medication to combat some drug overdoses. 

Naloxone hydrochloride, also known by the brand name Narcan, has been approved by the FDA for use to block overdoses from opioids, which include heroin and prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

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

A showdown is looming in the Missouri statehouse over an effort to make Missouri the final state in the nation to gain a prescription drug monitoring program.

State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, has promised to filibuster House Bill 1892, which would let doctors check a database before giving patients a prescription for opioid painkillers, and require pharmacists to report filling opioid prescriptions within 24 hours.

FDA | file photo

Prescriptions for opioids like hydrocodone and Vicodin that have been dispensed have quadrupled since 1999. Because these drugs are highly addictive, 49 states have implemented a drug monitoring program to ensure doctors don’t over-prescribe their patients. 

Just one state lags behind: Missouri.

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signed the prescription drug monitoring bill into law on Wednesday.
Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

Don’t look now, but St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger and company may be trailblazers – at least when it comes to setting up a prescription drug monitoring program.

With the Missouri General Assembly unlikely to approve a statewide drug tracking program, Stenger and the St. Louis County Council gave their blessing to a county database last week. It’s aimed at stopping someone from getting certain controlled substances at multiple pharmacies, which database supporters say is a big precursor to heroin abuse.

St. Louis County Councilman Sam Page is a strong supporting of a prescription drug monitoring program.
File photo by Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio

With a statewide prescription drug monitoring program likely to run into intractable legislative opposition, the St. Louis County Council decided not to wait.

The council gave final approval without opposition to legislation that would set up a database tracking when certain prescription drugs are dispensed. It’s aimed at stopping someone from getting narcotics at multiple pharmacies.

A Narcan kit like this would be available at Missouri pharmacies Rep. Lynch's bill is signed into law.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislation that would expand access to Narcan, a medicine that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is being weighed by a Missouri Senate committee. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Steven Lynch, R-Pulaski County, says this is just one aspect of statewide drug policy reform.

“Narcan is not a solution for this epidemic, it is a rescue remedy to keep people alive until we can figure out how to deal with the complex problem of drug addition, use, and treatment,” said Lynch.

Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston
Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio | file photo

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.

e-MagineArt.com | Flickr

It’s commonly understood that prescription painkillers are a gateway drug to heroin—both drugs are in the opiate family and provide similar highs. But new research from Washington University School of Medicine is redefining what that means.

Rather than switching from prescription painkillers to heroin, the Washington University researchers have found that many people who try heroin also continue to abuse prescription opiates.

Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

Two filmmakers who were born and raised in University City have returned for the St. Louis International Film Festival to screen their short film “Easy,” which tackles the issue of prescription drug abuse.

Flickr/e-MagineArt.com

When Turning Pharmaceuticals acquired the drug Daraprim, used for decades to treat and prevent infections, it boosted the price from $13.50 to $700 a tablet. That caught the attention of medical professionals and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Now, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., says the Senate Special Committee on Aging will investigate this and other similar price increases that followed recent acquisitions.

e-MagineArt.com | Flickr

Missouri hospitals have seen a drastic increase in prescription painkiller abuse over the past decade. According to a study from the Missouri Hospital Association, the rate of hospitalization due to the abuse of prescription opioids has increased by 137 percent since 2005.

The numbers localize a problem usually shown through national statistics. For instance, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 44 people die every day in the United States from prescription painkiller overdoses.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse – St. Louis is airing an anti-heroin ad (still shot shown) locally during the Super Bowl this Sunday.
Courtesy National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse – St. Louis Area

Among the much-anticipated Super Bowl commercials airing Sunday will be an anti-heroin ad created by a St. Louis area non-profit and a local ad agency.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse–St. Louis Area created the ad with the help of Schupp Consulting and local director Scott Ferguson to bring attention the region's growing heroin problem.

e-MagineArt.com | Flickr

Drugs, privacy, prison. Those three things are linked to the debate over prescription drug databases -- and Missouri is the only state in the U.S. without one.

Flickr/e-MagineArt.com

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Saturday is sponsoring a nationwide prescription drug take-back event.

Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., anyone can turn in their expired or unwanted medications at thousands of police stations, pharmacies, and other sites across the country, including here in St. Louis.

WBEZ/Luis Perea

St. Louis has a heroin problem. And the problem is growing, especially among suburban youth.

As previously reported by St. Louis Public Radio, the number of deaths in Missouri caused by heroin has doubled in recent years, with 90 percent of those deaths occurring in St. Louis.

(Courtesy Center for Investigative Reporting)

An investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting has found that the Department of Veterans Affairs has increased the number of prescriptions for opiates by about 270 percent nationwide in the past twelve years.

While the number of prescriptions varies widely in different regions of the country, St. Louis reflects the national average with an approximate 300 percent increase, said the author of the article, Aaron Glantz.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Gov. Jay Nixon has upped the ante in his criticism of a broad-based tax cut bill awaiting his decision, saying Thursday that it removes a sales tax exemption for prescription drugs that will raise taxes for millions of Missourians.

Flickr/Stephen Cummings

An abundance of prescription medication goes unused or is expired and is at risk of being abused.

This Saturday, April 27, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) holds the sixth annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. 

Brent Nagel

David Sheff is a journalist and New York Times best-selling author. 

In 2008, he wrote a memoir, Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction, about how his family dealt with his son‘s methamphetamine addiction.

In a new book, Sheff argues that addicts suffer from an illness and are not simply victims of their own bad choices.  “We must acknowledge addiction is an illness…and not just bad behavior…because we punish bad behavior…we treat illness,” Sheff writes.

(via Flickr/CarbonNYC)

Two bills that would create a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri received a hearing Thursday before a State Senate committee.

One of the bills, though, is structured in a way that’s designed to block the proposal from ever becoming reality.  Physician and State Senator Rob Schaaf (R, St. Joseph) is an outspoken critic of prescription drug monitoring.  He says it would violate citizens’ privacy rights.

“But I have agreed to carry (Senate Bill 146), given that it goes to a vote of the people, and that nothing will be construed to require a pharmacist or prescriber to obtain information about a patient from the database,” Schaaf told the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs and Health.

(via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain)

The nation’s drug czar was in Fenton Wednesday highlighting the fact that Missouri does not have a prescription drug monitoring program.

It’s the only state in the US without a tracking system or that hasn’t passed legislation to create one.

National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske says it’s a good way to identify patients who are "doctor shopping."

Flickr

The Drug Enforcement Administration's recent effort to collect unused prescription drugs has netted nearly 47,000 pounds in part of the Midwest.

The DEA's St. Louis office said Friday that the six states covered by the office saw 46,686 pounds of medication collected on April 28, National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Nationwide, more than a half-million pounds of unwanted or expired medications were turned in for disposal.

The St. Louis DEA says it collected:

(via Flickr/IndofunkSatish)

St. Louis to demolish plywood shacks near Mississippi River

Demolition will begin Friday at a row of plywood shacks near the Mississippi River in St. Louis where 10 homeless people have been evacuated. 

It is the first of three riverfront encampments the city ordered shut down. St. Louis Human Services Director Bill Siedhoff has said that he hopes to have all three encampments cleared out by May 18 after reports of violent crime and rat infestation.

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Updated at 4:26 p.m. to correct name of Jennifer Mallon's association. It is the National Community Pharmacists Association, not the National Association of Community Pharmacies.

Federal regulators have approved the $29.1 billion merger between pharmacy benefit managers Express Scripts and Medco.

Pills prescription drugs pharmaceuticals
ep_jhu | Flickr

Last year's fight between Walgreens and Express Scripts over prescription drug prices overshadowed the much bigger issue of whether health reforms have eased drug costs for many seniors, as well as whether state lawmakers should set up a health insurance exchange.

Bloomsberries | Flickr

A doctor from rural central Missouri faces four federal felonies for allegedly selling drugs, including narcotics and anti-depressants.

(via Flickr/ellie)

Residents in St. Charles County will soon need a prescription to purchase cold and allergy pills containing pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in methamphetamine. 

(Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio)

Two of the nation's largest pharmacy benefits management companies could become one in the first six months of next year.

(via Flickr/CarbonNYC)

About 20 percent of seniors and people with disabilities will lose prescription drug coverage because of cuts in the Illinois state budget.

State officials are sending letters to 43,000 participants saying they won't qualify for "Illinois Cares Rx" as of Sept. 1. Those who are still enrolled will pay more out of pocket for their prescriptions.

A processing floor at Express Scripts in north St. Louis County.
Rachel Lippmann/St. Louis Public Radio

The nation's largest drugstore chain is locked in a contract fight with one of the St. Louis area's  largest employers.

Walgreen Co. revealed during an earnings call today that it's planning to end its $5.3-billion-per-year relationship with Express Scripts Inc. on Jan. 1, saying it cannot reach a deal on the fees the pharmacy benefits manager pays to fill the prescriptions of Walgreen's customers.

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