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St. Charles County approves regional prescription drug database

A capsule of pills.
FDA | file photo

Updated Sept. 27, 1 p.m. to include county council approval - St. Charles County Council is the most recent local government to move forward with a prescription drug database.

Members Monday night unanimously voted in favor of an ordinance to establish the program, which would share information with similar initiatives in St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis.

Officials hope the program will be operational by Jan. 1.

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said sharing information is key.

"We'll keep all the same information together; all have access to each other's information," said Ehlmann. "Otherwise you just cross county lines and basically beat the whole system. It's still not a perfect system because even though we have the three largest entities now in the region, people can get by the system by simply driving further west."

The municipalities are taking action to reduce doctor shopping, the practice of visiting multiple doctors to get several prescriptions filled for drugs that would otherwise be illegal. Proponents also see the system as a key weapon in the fight against prescription drug and heroin abuse.

Missouri is the only state without a statewide program.

"Doing this statewide is still the best system but given we don't have that option - doing what we're doing is the next best thing," said Ehlmann. "We'll be encouraging other counties to join."

Ehlmann will sign the bill this Wednesday during a ceremony at the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

Our earlier story -St. Charles County could be joining the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County in tracking the number of prescriptions people fill, in an attempt to curb addiction to opioid painkillers.

A bill being introduced Monday night at the County Council meeting would allow St. Charles County to join St. Louis County’s prescription drug monitoring program once it’s in place.

St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlmann said he’s optimistic the bill will pass.

“I’m sure we’ll hear from people who like it and people who don’t like it,” Ehlmann said. “All the doctors that I’ve talked to think it’s a good idea. All the people involved in combating drug addiction and the courts and everybody is behind it.”

St. Louis County passed a measure in March setting up a local prescription drug monitoring program as state level opposition once again prevented Missouri from becoming the final state in the country with a prescription database.

That opposition centers on privacy concerns. But Ehlmann said nothing controversial would be listed in the local version of the database.

“The way this is written, your medical condition that may lead you to be prescribed a pain medication is identified nowhere,” Ehlmann said. “Nobody my age has gone through life without being prescribed a pain medication at some point. So there’s no stigma involved with that.”

“It will not be available to the public, either,” Ehlmann added. “People say 'what if somebody hacks you?' but again, if they hack you, all they’ll find out is that you have a prescription. They won’t know what it was written for.”

The city of St. Louis followed St. Louis County’s lead and voted in May to join the county’s prescription drug database.

St. Charles County Council could pass the prescription drug monitoring program as early as Sept. 26, giving the county time to put measures in place before St. Louis County’s vendor launches the regional database.

St. Louis County spokesman Cordell Whitlock told St. Louis Public Radio the vendor is on track to launch the program by the end of the year.

Follow Camille on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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