One of many bills the House approved was HB 1892, the Narcotics Control Act. This legislation would create a prescription drug-monitoring program (PDMP) using computer technology to help prevent the abuse of pain killer medications—especially the frequently misused opioids, Vicodin, Oxycontin, and hydrocodone. HB 1892 is important because prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing problems in our society today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified the misuse of prescription medications as reaching epidemic proportions, with approximately 44 people dying each day from overdoses. The amount of pain killers prescribed and sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since 1999.
HB 1892 puts in place the best practices learned from other states in efforts to create a strong, secure, and efficient data base system designed to protect Missourians, while allowing doctors and pharmacists the ability to provide the best care possible. Currently, Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program in place.
The proposed PDMP would allow Missouri pharmacists to share patient information to prevent individuals from filing the same prescriptions at multiple locations, a practice known as “doctor shopping.” Some individuals go from doctor to doctor to get a pain killer prescription medication to either use, abuse, or turn around and sell. Under this program, only pharmacists and physicians would be able to access the computerized program. Kentucky saw a 50% drop in doctor shopping after their state put a similar law into effect in 2012. Law enforcement officials would be required to request a warrant before they are able to get any information.
Those in opposition to HB 1892 say they aren’t really concerned that Missouri is the only state without a monitoring program, pointing out that Missouri is not the nation’s leader in prescription drug abuse but falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. They question the impact of this type of program in preventing such abuse. However, their main opposition surrounds privacy issues regarding the security of a data base and the potential for private patient information that could somehow be hacked or accessed from outside the system.
On the other hand, supporters say the legislation contains numerous protections to ensure data is encrypted so that private information will remain private. Some also mention the benefit to both doctors and patients when unconscious patients are brought to emergency rooms and doctors need vital medical information before being able to proceed with proper and necessary treatment. If the information is available in a data base, doctors could easily access it and save valuable time and, perhaps, even lives. Supporters also say that a drug monitoring system will alert doctors if a patient holds prescriptions for opioids from multiple prescribers.
The purpose of HB 1892 is to identify those individuals who are abusing prescription medications and to help prevent others from becoming misusers and abusers. The design is to protect privacy and to ensure that only legitimate patients are able to access opioids for their treatment. At the same time, the program endeavors to help stop prescription drug traffickers, those individuals who make their living by targeting and trafficking to others in our communities. This program does not infringe on the legitimate prescribing of a controlled substance by a licensed practitioner. It simply makes it possible to help avoid potential problems by alerting the pharmacists or physicians of questionable instances.
Having passed out of the House, this legislation is now on its way to the Missouri Senate. In the past it has come up against strong opposition there, and, consequently, has died. Maybe this will be the year that Missouri passes the much needed prescription drug monitoring program and takes the tough step toward curbing or preventing prescription pain killer drug abuse.