By Eric Bohl
In February a bill establishing a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) passed the Missouri House of Representatives. This is at least the eighth consecutive year such a bill has passed the House. Unfortunately, each year the bill has gotten bogged down in the Missouri Senate and ultimately failed to pass.
A PDMP is a tool to help doctors and pharmacists recognize the early signs of prescription drug abuse. Often they can intervene before a situation becomes too hard to solve. The program would keep track of a patient’s prescription history for Schedule II through IV drugs. These Schedules include opioids, anabolic steroids and valium. A PDMP would let doctors and pharmacists review their patients’ history. The information could help them make better-informed decisions of how to treat their patients’ needs.
PDMPs are effective at reducing doctor shopping and overprescription of opioids. The CDC has documented numerous such cases following implementation of a PDMP. For example, one year after mandating that prescribers check the state’s PDMP before prescribing opioids, New York saw a 75% drop in patients seeing multiple prescribers for the same drugs.
While a PDMP is not a silver bullet to end opioid addiction, it is an important piece of the solution. This is a key element of the Trump administration’s five-point strategy to fight the opioid epidemic. This effort, led by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has contributed to a nationwide slowing of the epidemic.
Incredibly, Missouri remains the only state in the nation without a PDMP. Amid the largest drug crisis in our nation’s history, it’s disappointing that every state but ours has taken this step. In 2018, the last year for which data were available, 1,132 Missourians died from an opioid overdose. This is more than double the number from 10 years earlier. Over 47,000 Americans died from opioids that year, more than died at the height of the AIDS epidemic.
Representative Holly Rehder (R-Scott City) has led the push for a Missouri PDMP for the past seven years. Senator Tony Luetkemeyer (R-Parkville) is championing the bill in the Senate. For years, a small handful of state senators have blocked their efforts. These senators claim that a PDMP would constitute an invasion of privacy and invite government abuse.
The hypothetical situations these senators toss around are not based on evidence or experience. Forty-nine other states have had PDMPs for years, and the senators’ catastrophic predictions have never materialized.
Privacy is important to Missourians, as it should be. In reality, though, we have often decided to allow monitoring to occur when the risk to the public is great. Sales of many dangerous substances have been monitored for years. For example, an average Joe cannot just walk into any corner drug store and purchase plutonium or high explosives. It could easily be argued that opioids are even more dangerous than these substances. Plutonium and explosives together don’t kill anywhere near 1,100 of our fellow citizens each year.
The Trump administration is correct – Missouri needs a PDMP so doctors can finally have the necessary tools to fight opioid addiction. The Missouri Senate should take notice and enact a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
Eric Bohl, of Columbia, Missouri, is Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.