Two Republican state senators who deal with prescriptions in their professional lives stake out widely different positions on making Missouri the last state to create a prescription drug monitoring program.
One of them, St. Joseph Senator Rob Schaaf, a doctor, filibustered a drug monitoring program bill last year for nine hours, ultimately crippling it badly enough it went nowhere. He demands a statewide vote saying a person’s privacy is more important than preventing prescription drug abuse. “Should I give up my freedom of having my private information remain private in order to stop somebody else from breaking the law?” he asks a senate committee.
Cassville Senator David Sater, a pharmacist for three decades, sees no need for a public vote to set up a database that would curtail doctor-shopping and prescription drug abuse. And he uses numbers from Schaaf’s senatorial district to support his position. “In the counties of Buchanan and Platte there were 62 deaths in a four-year period from prescription drug abuse and ther’s over 4,000 hospital and ER visits in that area,” he says.
Shaaf’s bill requires a statewide vote. Sater’s bill does not.
Other critics of the database focus on privacy issues. But a spokesman for the state health department says the information already is in data bases in every Missouri pharmacy and under present law an average of nine to twenty people see that information. However, they do not see the client’s entire medical record. Backers say linking that information together in a state database can pinpoint people who get multiple prescriptions and visit multiple pharmacies. They’ve told a senate committee more people die from prescription drug abuse each year nationally than die in traffic crashes.
The committee could recommend senate action when it meets next week.
Excerpts of committee testimony (not floor debate, as the erroneously labeled first entry indicates)