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Missouri Senate gives initial approval to prescription drug monitoring program after lengthy debate

Missouri Senate gives initial approval to prescription drug monitoring program after lengthy debate

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Missouri Capitol and Missouri flag

A stiff breeze keeps the Missouri state flag aloft on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, outside the Capitol. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

JEFFERSON CITY — A proposed prescription drug monitoring program intended to help contain the opioid epidemic was granted initial approval in the Senate late Monday after opponents failed to adopt a series of amendments.

Debate on the bill stretched past 11 p.m. as critics of the legislation proposed amendments that supporters said would gut the bill, erode its support among doctors or make it difficult to find a vendor to carry out the program.

In the end, the amendments were not approved and opponents allowed the proposal to move forward. ​

The Senate must vote one more time before the measure moves to the House.

______

Our earlier story, posted at 7:41 p.m. Monday.

JEFFERSON CITY — A proposed prescription drug monitoring program intended to help contain the opioid epidemic ran into opposition in the Missouri Senate once again as debate stretched into the evening Monday.

Sen. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, said the legislation she sponsors is nearly identical to a compromise reached last year with senators who had concerns about the program.

But Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, led a push against the proposal on the Senate floor for hours, citing privacy concerns and arguing the prescription drug monitoring program led by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health has not proven to be effective.

The statewide program would compile information about prescriptions for controlled substances in a centralized database, allowing medical professionals to see what has been dispensed by other providers.

“A PDMP protects patients from lethal combinations,” Rehder said.

The program would replace the St. Louis program, which Rehder said currently covers more than 80% of the state, and it would add stricter requirements on sharing data.

“It’s no longer a question if we have a PDMP,” she said. “We have a PDMP. It’s which one we want.”

Under Rehder’s proposal, the state program would be supervised by a task force made up of members from the Board of Registration for the Healing Arts, the Board of Pharmacy, the Board of Nursing, and the Missouri Dental Board. The task force would select a vendor to collect and maintain the data.

Moon argued the vendor used by the St. Louis program allows patient data to be shared too widely, according to its user agreements.

Rehder countered that a vendor would not be selected unless it agreed to the terms of the bill, which restricts how information can be shared. It specifically disallows using information in the database to take away the right to own firearms or as probable cause for an arrest or search warrant.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, backed up Rehder’s arguments, saying it would be “impossible” for the company Moon is concerned about to get the contract if it insisted on the same user agreement.

Luetkemeyer helped orchestrate the compromise in March of last year by adding an amendment to restrict data sharing and put control of the program under a task force instead of the Department of Health and Senior Services.

His amendment ended a filibuster by conservative Republicans, but the proposal did not become law before COVID-19 derailed the legislative session.

Sen. Rick Brattin joined Moon’s concerns Monday.

“Are we not the last remaining holdout state in the entire union?” Brattin asked. If PDMP programs work “we should be the only state dealing with this epidemic.”

Rehder said the program isn’t the only factor affecting opioid use, but she has heard from physicians that the St. Louis program has assisted with their prescribing practices and can help them recommend drug treatment.

In response to Moon’s argument that drug treatment doesn’t work unless a person wants to change, Rehder told the story of her own daughter, who battled addiction for years before finally finding a program that worked for her.

Addicts are “gonna make it out if people don’t give up on them,” she said.

Rehder’s proposal is Senate Bill 63.

Updated at 6:51 a.m.

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