Editorial: Missouri must stop stalling and combat prescription drug abuse

Missouri the only state in the nation without a program to help avoid addiction to painkillers and other opioids.
Missouri the only state in the nation without a program to help avoid addiction to painkillers and other opioids. The Kansas City Star

Forty-nine other states aren’t wrong.

Missouri is the sole outlier in a national effort to curtail the devastating impact of prescription drug abuse. Standing alone on this issue is an embarrassment with deadly consequences.

Every other state in the country has enacted prescription drug monitoring systems. The programs provide doctors and pharmacists with essential information, allowing them to cut off patients who are stockpiling opioids and other potentially harmful medications.

Monitoring system databases track the prescriptions that patients fill, allowing both doctors and pharmacists to flag abuses. Armed with that information, doctors can help those who are abusing drugs seek treatment — and they can avoid over-prescribing painkillers and unintentionally fueling an addiction.

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No medical professional wants to become inadvertently complicit in a patient’s drug abuse. Yet an inexplicable lack of legislative muscle here has created that reality.

Doctor-shopping is the term. And Missouri is a haven. People come here knowing that without a monitoring system, the state is a relatively easy place to hop from doctor to doctor, seeking multiple prescriptions for painkillers and other addictive drugs. With no statewide program in place, it’s little surprise Missouri ranks No. 1 among Midwestern states in the rate of prescription opioids sold. In 2014, U.S drug overdoses hit their highest recorded numbers, including 1,067 deaths in Missouri, according to the CDC.

Lawmakers in Jefferson City need to bring Missouri in line with the 49 other states that recognize addiction comes at a cost to society. Bills have been introduced yet again to create a statewide monitoring program in Missouri. Previous efforts have stalled or been upended by a few obstructionist opponents.

In the past, a discredited argument about patient privacy has been the main roadblock. But only the doctor and pharmacist have access to information about a patient’s prescriptions. It’s simply common sense to provide doctors with access to all of a patient’s medications, which is why medical professionals and organizations are strongly behind this effort.

Rachelle Allen, 40, of Kansas City lost her home, her children and her career to a decade-long addiction to prescription pain medications. Like a growing number of people nationwide, Allen started taking opioid pain pills after surgery and found t

It’s both laudable and a shame that Jackson County had to move on its own in January to circumvent the lack of effective response from the state legislature. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill successfully accessed federal dollars to help the county link with a monitoring effort in St. Louis County.

Proposed legislation would finally compel Missouri to take long overdue steps to address this issue. The public can help by voicing support for Senate Bill 314 when it comes before the Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety committee on Feb. 9. For those unable to attend the hearing, testimony can be submitted in advance.

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Passing legislation that would create a statewide monitoring system is crucial and will save lives. Enough dawdling. Missouri needs to join national efforts to help those struggling with opioid addiction.

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