On Monday, Gov. Mike Parson signed SB 63 into law, which creates a statewide prescription drug monitoring program in the state of Missouri. Local legislators and a local pharmacist who owns several pharmacies in the region expressed their approval.
“Many counties across the state already had a PDMP prior to this, and having a statewide program will help ensure we are able to reduce the opioid epidemic and direct those with an addiction to seek treatment,” said Sen. Elaine Gannon, R-District 3.
Missouri had been the last state to adopt such a program. Similar statewide prescription drug monitoring programs have been adopted in every other state in the country, as well as the District of Columbia and Guam, in an effort to address the opioid epidemic occurring across the United States.
“Establishing a statewide prescription drug monitoring program has been a top priority for my administration, and I want to thank Sen. Holly Rehder (R-District 27) and Rep. Travis Smith (R-District 155) for working to get this landmark legislation across the finish line,” Parson said. “SB 63 will help provide necessary information to health care professionals and empower them to make decisions that better serve their patients and assist in fighting the opioid epidemic in Missouri.”
SB 63 establishes the Joint Oversight Task Force of Prescription Drug Monitoring, which will be responsible for collecting and maintaining data on the prescription and dispensation of prescribed controlled substances to Missouri patients.
For almost a decade, health care professionals in Missouri have been advocating for improved monitoring of the dispensation of opioids and other prescribed controlled substances to their patients.
According to Lisa Umfleet, who owns and operates Parkland Health Mart pharmacies in Desloge, Ironton, Fredericktown, Farmington and Piedmont, it’s something the Missouri Pharmacy Association has backed for a long time, although most counties in Missouri had already signed on to a system created out of St. Louis.
“Where we (Parkland Health Maart Pharmacy) have locations, all of the cities were in counties that were already participating in the St. Louis drug monitoring program. But it will give some relief to the jurisdictions that were having to pay to be part of that, because now it will be paid for through the state,” she explained. “But yes, I think it's exciting because some areas of the state had gaps in the coverage, especially when there might be stores over multiple counties. If one county was participating and the other wasn't, it created some challenges.”
Rep. Mike Henderson, R-District 117, said he has supported the drug monitoring program from the beginning, although the success of the St. Louis prescription drug monitoring program in covering what he said was about 87% of the state made him feel more “non-committal” about spending state money on something that seemed to already be handled.
“I think it's a good program, I think we need to track these drugs, don't get me wrong on that part. I think we have a severe problem with opioids and pain medications,” he said. “My only problem with it was that 87% of our counties are now covered under the St. Louis drug monitoring program. And the question was, did the state really need to put a few million dollars into creating a state one, when the only 13% that aren't covered, there's counties that just chose not to be in it. But I think the program overall is something that was needed.”
Henderson said many in his party also initially balked at the thought of private health information being kept in a large database that might be subject to hacking or other abuse. Later changes to the bill seemed to address that fear, he said.
Patient information is protected health information under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and will continue to be maintained according to federal law under SB 63. SB 63 further states that patient information is considered a closed record under state law and will not be provided to law enforcement agencies, prosecutorial officials, or regulatory bodies for purposes not allowed under HIPAA.
“I think that's what took it nine years (to pass) was the fear that we as a state, or as a country even, keep taking more and more people's personal privacy away from them,” he said. “Now there's some fears that that that people's information that should be private would get out there and it would be readily available to people. My argument with that is, if you go to BJC or if you go to Mercy Hospital, you're already in their database. So you know, which database are they going to hack? Does that make sense?”
Umfleet said most health care professionals look at the PDMP solely as a tool to help combat widespread opioid addiction.
“This is only a tool, I think that's the important piece of it. It's not meant to be punitive. It's just meant to be a clinical tool,” Umfleet said. “And so law enforcement won't be able to get records. From my understanding, that's probably one of the biggest changes, just giving prescribers and pharmacies the access to be able to make better decision making and have meaningful conversations with their patients.”
She mentioned other legislation in recent years has also helped, such as requiring electronic prescription of controlled substances to cut down on forgeries, and limiting opioid prescriptions to shorter durations of a week, for example.
SB 63 also extends the expiration date of the RX Cares for Missouri Program to Aug. 28, 2026. It’s a drug take-back program for controlled substances and provides resources for collecting from the public unused or unwanted medication and disposing of it.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.