Update: State Senator Ed Emery responded to our call, asking why he is against this measure. Senator Emery says he has serious concerns about the safety of this online monitoring program, and the possibility of data being compromised by hacking. Senator Emery also says the majority of statistics from states that already have this monitoring program show no significant decrease in drug overdose deaths.
Missouri senators today held a hearing on a proposed new prescription drug monitoring program. The proposed new statewide program was discussed in a senate committee that will consider legislation to reduce opioid addiction. Missouri is the only state to not have a statewide prescription drug monitoring program.
Neosho pharmacist Tim Mitchell has seen customers from Arkansas.
"Someone who's not normally a patient of ours," says Mitchell.
He's also had customers from Kansas and Oklahoma.
"Red flags go up," says Mitchell.
It's not like he doesn't appreciate the business from out-of-state.
"It may be that they're traveling through, and this is where their friends told them to come," says Mitchell.
But Mitchell is on the front lines of fighting a prescription drug problem. Pharmacists say Missouri has attracted out-of-state abusers of prescription pain pills.
"They may be selling them. They may be taking them themselves," says Mitchell.
"I could walk into a doctor (office) and describe different things, lower back pain or something, and get prescriptions from more than one doctor," says Jennifer Cartright.
For the past 17 years, Cartright has been clean of her pain pill addiction. Previously, she would doctor shop, or pharmacy hop. Cartright was addicted to pain pills for four years, but says she realized on her own that the pills were ruining her life.
"The only way we have to be able to track these things is to be able to call other pharmacies and call physician's offices. And sometimes, pharmacists don't have time to do that," says Mitchell.
Some state senators are looking over this proposal for a statewide prescription drug monitoring program that would include pharmacists and doctors going online, to a secure website, entering a customer's name, and seeing when pain pills have been filled at any pharmacy across the state.
"If I had a doctor say, I'm sorry, we can't fill this prescription because you just got this prescription filled by another doctor, then that would've made me take a look at my actions," says Cartright.
According to the Missouri Hospital Association, infants on Medicaid, born addicted to opioids from their mothers, cost taxpayers more than $23 million last year.
Pharmacists say a prescription drug monitoring program in Florida cut oxycodone overdose deaths by 41 percent.
"We're not going to call the police over someone who may just need some counseling help," says Mitchell.
...Getting rid of the addiction before an overdose death. Mitchell and Cartright say that's a priceless, proactive approach.
Cartright says this proposed new monitoring program wouldn't be a "cure" for all pain pill addictions. But she says it would certainly be a strong curb for many opioid addictions.
Cartright wishes this proposed program was around earlier, because her brother died of a prescription drug overdose last year.
No further action on this proposal has been listed yet. State Senator Ed Emery is opposed to this proposal, but has not returned our phone call asking for reasons why.
"There are some legislators who feel this is an invasion of patients' privacy," says Mitchell. "I don't feel that way. Most medical providers will tell you if a pharmacy calls and needs to know specific information for the safety of a patient, that's HIPAA, it's covered under HIPAA."
KOAM - Licensed to Pittsburg, Kansas