Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring program that helps alert medical providers to patients’ use — or abuse — of prescribed drugs.
On Wednesday, the city of Nevada, Mo., and Vernon County signed ordinances to authorize operation of the Saint Louis County Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, becoming the first governments in southwest Missouri to join a network of cities and counties that are taking steps to do what the state hasn’t.
Officials at Kansas City-based Cerner Corp., which adopted Nevada as a testing ground for its population health efforts, applaud the developing network but note that it will be more effective if it blankets the state.
“If you look at the participating counties, that’s about 40 percent of the Missouri population,” said Kelly Ast, the community coordinator for the Healthy Nevada program funded by Cerner. “For the past five years, we’ve been working with the community to understand their health and well-being and find the gaps.”
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The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program fills one of the gaps being addressed around the state, where high level of opioid addictions and overuse of other prescription drugs are causing health problems and death. Problems include “doctor shopping,” when patients get prescriptions from multiple health providers.
The Kansas City Council in December passed a similar drug monitoring program ordinance, authorizing cooperation with Jackson County and participation with other jurisdictions’ programs tied to the Saint Louis County program, creating a patchwork of participation.
One study indicated that Missouri has the seventh-highest drug overdose rate in the country. Other data show marked increases in prescription opioid sales and increases in emergency department visits for opioid overuse in the state.
Other jurisdictions with monitoring program ordinances tied to the Saint Louis County network include Independence, St. Louis, Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Charles County, Ste. Genevieve County, Cole County, Lincoln County, Stodddard County, Cooper County, Audrain County and Miller County.
The full rollout of the network is scheduled for April 1.
Without a statewide monitoring program, advocates say, it’s too easy for users to simply go to the next nonparticipating county to get prescriptions filled.
The monitoring program allows doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners and other health providers to access a secure database filled out by pharmacists. No personal information is shared outside of the database, and its use is covered by existing patient privacy laws.
Kansas has had a statewide program since 2008. Around the country, many of the 49 states with prescription drug databases have experienced reductions in overdose deaths from prescription drugs and a drop in “doctor shopping” by people looking for new ways to get prescriptions.
Missouri legislators are considering two different prescription drug monitoring bills, one by a longtime opponent and one by a longtime advocate. One focuses on monitoring physicians’ prescription records; the other focuses on monitoring individuals’ prescription histories. Neither is believed to have strong likelihood for passage.