Legislation creating a statewide prescription drug monitoring program cleared its last major hurdle on Thursday — passing the Missouri Senate 21-10.
The measure has passed in the House for years, but a strong filibuster in the Senate has allowed some of the conservative members to kill the proposal due to privacy concerns. A monitoring program is designed to prevent abuse, especially of opioids.
There were some changes made to the original bill sent over by the House — who controls the database and who has access to the information — so the House will need to approve the changes before it can be sent to Gov. Mike Parson.
“Really, there’s two principal changes,” said Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, who introduced the proposal in the Senate. “We created a new board that is a private sector board of physicians and prescribers who is going to run it.
"The other thing we did is we said just prescribers are the only people who have access to it, so the government does not have access to the database. So, not only does the government not control it, they can’t access it as well.”
In the original version of the bill, the Department of Health and Senior Services would have been in control of the database. The change came as a result of concerns from conservative members of the chamber about creating a government database.
Luetkemeyer said nearly 90% of the state is already covered by the St. Louis County PDMP. But he says that’s a “patchwork system” that doesn’t have “procedural safeguards” that this proposal offers.
“Number one, I think it brings consistency to the collection of medical data, and number two, it makes sure that we have greater protections for patient privacy,” he said. “Right now, under the St. Louis County PDMP, there’s really nothing that would prohibit St. Louis County from sharing that information, let’s say, with the FBI.”
Despite the changes to the legislation, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, said he spoke with sponsor Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, and they are in agreement with the changes.
“We look forward to truly agreeing that bill when it gets back,” said Haahr.
Due to health concerns regarding the coronavirus, passing the state budget is a top priority for lawmakers, so it’s not clear when the measure will be called for a vote in the House. It is not likely to be called before the legislative spring break that begins March 23.
“After that when it comes to policy items, we will reevaluate that over spring break and, sort of, make a plan going forward,” said Haahr. “We are fully aware that there will be disruptions. This will not be a normal session, and as such, we’ll have to prioritize.”
Missouri is the only state in the nation without a statewide PDMP. Parson has signaled his support for the database in the past but could not be immediately reached for comment on this legislation.
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