- Associated Press - Monday, February 8, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - As opioid overdoses increasingly draw attention in Congress and statehouses across the U.S., Missouri lawmakers are again considering a proposal for a prescription monitoring program that would bring the state in line with all others.

Missouri is the only state without a database aimed at informing doctors and pharmacists when similar prescriptions were recently written or filed - a sign of potential abuse by so-called doctor shoppers trying to sell or feed their own addictions.

A bill by Rep. Holly Rehder to create a monitoring program is on the House debate calendar this week.

Rehder, whose daughter sliced her thumb at work at age 17 and was prescribed the painkiller Lorcet, has been proposing a monitoring program since her first term as a House member in 2013. The measure has failed every year. Criticism centers on privacy concerns over a government-run database with medical information.

“I will continue 110 percent toward this goal until it comes to fruition,” the Sikeston Republican said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

This year, a prescription drug monitoring program has backing from U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

The Missouri Democrat on Monday recommended research on addiction treatment for older adults, more doctor training on pain management and easier-to-use prescription monitoring programs. In January, she led a special hearing in Jefferson City on opioid abuse and called for a prescription drug monitoring program in Missouri.

After President Barack Obama proposed more than $1 billion in spending to combat heroin and opioid addiction, McCaskill said last week that she would push for action on the national level.

“But that action needs to be matched in Missouri, where we’re lagging behind on commonsense reforms that would save lives in a state that’s one of the hardest-hit by this epidemic,” McCaskill said in a news release.

While GOP House Speaker Todd Richardson said he backs Rehder’s bill, it faces challenges in the Senate. Rehder’s bill last year passed out of the House 107-48. The full Senate never voted on it. In 2014, longtime critic Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, led an eight-hour filibuster against the legislation that effectively killed the bill. The family doctor has said the database would infringe on individual liberties and questioned the effectiveness of such a program.

Schaaf this year proposed his own version of a monitoring system, which he said would warn doctors or pharmacists of signs of potential prescription drug abuse but would not allow them to see more specific prescription records. He said he’s willing to back down from a potential filibuster on a monitoring program if the language in his bill moves forward or Rehder’s bill is put to a public vote.

“In one way, she’ll actually get a (prescription drug monitoring program) that works,” Schaaf said. “The other way she’ll get nothing, because the people will vote it down.”

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Prescription drug monitoring bills are HB 1892 and SB 768.

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Online:

House: https://www.house.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at https://twitter.com/esballentine

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