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Missouri opioid drug tracking bill faces challenges

Missouri opioid drug tracking bill faces challenges

February 8th, 2019 by Associated Press in News

FILE - In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Conn. A new filing in a Massachusetts case ramps up the legal and financial pressure against the Sackler family, which owns the company that makes OxyContin. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

The Missouri House on Wednesday advanced a bill to create a statewide monitoring program for prescription opioids, but efforts to make Missouri the final state to adopt such a system still face steep opposition.

At issue is a bill by Sikeston Republican Rep. Holly Rehder to require pharmacists to log prescriptions into a database, which doctors and other pharmacists could check to see if patients are visiting multiple physicians or pharmacies to stock up on addictive drugs. Missouri is the only state without such a program.

This year, the measure has support from legislative leaders and Gov. Mike Parson, and it's no longer threatened by a former senator who for years led opposition to it.

However, longstanding privacy concerns about a government-run database and questions about the effectiveness of such a program in combating the opioid crisis remain, and the proposal is getting a mixed response from lawmakers so far this year.

"I have heard the idea that it's going to move quickly and easily," said Weldon Spring Republican Sen. Bill Eigel, who opposes the measure. "I don't think that's accurate."

House members voted 110-43 Wednesday to give Rehder's bill initial approval, but only after lawmakers pitched several amendments that she said would have effectively killed the bill, such as requiring medical marijuana to be tracked.

Another failed amendment would have required doctors and pharmacists to check the database, a provision Rehder said likely would make the program more effective but that the Sikeston Republican cautioned has previously led to the bill's death in the Senate.

"This bill will not pass with this amendment on," Rehder told colleagues on the House floor. "We've already proven that."

The measure needs another vote of approval to move to the Senate.

Bills to create a prescription drug monitoring program have repeatedly failed in Missouri's upper chamber, in large part because of opposition previously led by former Republican Sen. Rob Schaaf. He later agreed to support the proposal and has since left the Senate, but Eigel said "there's still resistance."

"The obstacles for that particular bill go beyond a single senator," Eigel said.

A Senate version of the bill failed to make it out of committee Wednesday on a 3-3 vote. One senator, who has voted in favor of monitoring programs previously, was not present.

Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, who sponsored the Senate proposal, called that vote a minor setback but said he's still optimistic a prescription drug monitoring bill will pass.

"This is a piece of legislation that has a lot of steam behind it," the Parkville Republican said.