Out-of-State Pill Seekers Targeting Missouri

Missouri is the only state that has not implemented a monitoring program for prescription drugs. As a result, this Midwest state has become the new Florida, attracting pill seekers who are looking for easy access to powerful and addictive prescription medications.

Not that the situation in Missouri is nearly as bad as it was in Florida during the height of the pill mills and illegitimate pain clinics. However, there is definitely a serious and growing prescription drug problem in this state, as pharmacists and law enforcement officials struggle to put a stop to doctor shopping not only among Missouri residents, but also among visitors who want to take advantage of the comparatively easy access to prescription drugs.

Current Monitoring Programs Have Varying Reporting Procedures

Prescription drug monitoring programs vary from state to state, but all are designed to provide a record of every prescription issued to a single individual so that patients cannot go from doctor to doctor gathering multiple prescriptions and filling them at different pharmacies. Most states require that dispensers submit prescription information to the monitoring program on a daily or weekly basis. However, four states give dispensers 72 hours to report, while Pennsylvania and Alaska only require dispensers to send their data to the program on a monthly basis. In contrast, Oklahoma requires dispensers to submit the information in real time.

There are also differences when it comes to what substances the programs have the authority to monitor and who is required to report to the program. For example, almost all states monitor Schedule II, III and IV substances, and most states also monitor Schedule V substances, while a minority of states also monitor certain non-controlled substances.

In certain states, veterinarians are required to report when they dispense controlled substances. Other states require out-of-state pharmacies to report whenever they dispense controlled substances to residents of that state.

Pharmacists Must Work Hard to Catch Pill Seekers

Without the help of a central database like that provided by prescription monitoring programs, doctors and pharmacists who want to stop pill seekers have to rely on a combination of instinct and time-consuming detective work. It can mean contacting hospital emergency rooms and insurance companies to try and track down existing prescriptions for patients and trying to get law enforcement interested in suspicious activity. Many doctors and pharmacists won’t or can’t take the time to track down information that a prescription monitoring program would consolidate into a single database.

Missouri Program Would Restrict Doctor, Pharmacist Access

Missouri is considering legislation to implement a drug monitoring program. However, the program currently up for approval would have one major difference from the programs in other states. In an effort to protect patient privacy, the program would limit access to the database to the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Doctors and pharmacists would submit their information on prescriptions to the state, and the DHSS would contact the dispensers if there were a concern regarding a patient’s prescription.

Currently, data on the effectiveness of prescription monitoring programs is limited, although early research suggests that they are helping to reduce overdose deaths from prescription drugs. With no other states limiting doctor and pharmacist access to the database information, it is even less clear how much of an impact such a monitoring program would have on Missouri’s prescription drug problems. Currently, the state has the seventh-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the country, most of which are from prescription drugs.

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