Government Technology

    Digital Communities
    Industry Members

  • Click sponsor logos for whitepapers, case studies, and best practices.
  • McAfee

Prescription Drug Database Fight Continues in Missouri

prescription medication

February 18, 2014 By

Actor Heath Ledger’s high-profile death in January 2008 from an overdose on a lethal cocktail of medications sparked national outcry on the dangers of prescription drug abuse. But the problem reaches far beyond Hollywood’s elite. Pill-popping has become a widespread addiction for people of all ages, from pre-teens to retirees, all in search of a “legal” high.

States have spent the last few years looking at more effective ways to control the misuse of medications such as OxyContin and Xanax. Forty-nine states have – or plan to – put databases online that enable physicians and pharmacists easily spot “doctor shoppers” – people who go from doctor to doctor getting multiple prescriptions for the same drug.

The one holdout? Missouri.

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Act was introduced earlier this year to create a prescription drug database in the Show-Me State. But trepidation over the potential of data breaches may derail the bill, just as they did when a similar proposal was filibustered by Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, in 2012.

This year’s effort, House Bill 1133, was authored by Missouri Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington. The bill gives the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services management over the database, which would be funded through a series of grants and donations. Pharmacies would then share data about prescriptions, patients and the doctors authorizing certain types of medications. Law enforcement could have access to the information through a court order.

Missouri’s problem is that people pay cash to see a doctor at a local clinic, get a prescription, pay cash for that and then repeat the process in other cities to score the same drugs. Without a shared database, there’s no way for pharmacies to cross-check and see if a person is abusing the system.

Schaaf, however, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he still has the same privacy concerns with a database as he did two years ago. He also noted that no studies have shown that prescription drug databases lower the death rate caused by overdoses.

Florida’s experience with its prescription drug database hasn’t been good and supports some of Schaaf’s beliefs. The Sunshine State’s database was breached last year, leaking the names and prescription information of approximately 3,300 Floridians. In addition, The Tampa Bay Times reported in 2012 that many doctors and pharmacists in Florida don’t bother to use the database.

Despite the criticisms, Engler remains adamant that Missouri needs to address the problem of “doctor shopping.” In an interview with Government Technology, he said any effort the state can make to potentially save lives is worth more than risks that a database may be hacked.

“Everyone who produces these drugs are in agreement that something needs to be done,” Engler said. “The other states have been proactive … and Missouri has done nothing except [say] it’s OK to cleanse the gene pool.”

While he remains passionate about the issue, Engler admitted he wasn’t confident HB 1133 would survive deliberations in the Missouri Senate. He doesn’t expect Sen. Schaaf to change his view regarding privacy, but he’d like to see some senators take a stand and push to take a vote on the legislation.

Engler was, however, open to discussing further cybersecurity measures for the database to beef up protection of the information, including a mandatory purging of records over time. But felt the issue shouldn’t be a roadblock.

“To just use the excuse that there could be cyberattacks, therefore we don’t want to keep track of drugs, is flimsy at-best,” he said.

HB 1133 was read for a third time and passed by the Missouri House of Representatives on Feb. 13. On Feb. 17, the bill was reported to the Senate and read for the first time. At press time, further action was not scheduled on the Act.

| More


Add Your Comment

You are solely responsible for the content of your comments. We reserve the right to remove comments that are considered profane, vulgar, obscene, factually inaccurate, off-topic, or considered a personal attack.

In Our Library

White Papers | Exclusives Reports | Webinar Archives | Best Practices and Case Studies
Digital Cities & Counties Survey: Best Practices Quick Reference Guide
This Best Practices Quick Reference Guide is a compilation of examples from the 2013 Digital Cities and Counties Surveys showcasing the innovative ways local governments are using technological tools to respond to the needs of their communities. It is our hope that by calling attention to just a few examples from cities and counties of all sizes, we will encourage further collaboration and spark additional creativity in local government service delivery.
Wireless Reporting Takes Pain (& Wait) out of Voting
In Michigan and Minnesota counties, wireless voting via the AT&T network has brought speed, efficiency and accuracy to elections - another illustration of how mobility and machine-to-machine (M2M) technology help governments to bring superior services and communication to constituents.
Why Would a City Proclaim Their Data “Open by Default?”
The City of Palo Alto, California, a 2013 Center for Digital Government Digital City Survey winner, has officially proclaimed “open” to be the default setting for all city data. Are they courageous or crazy?
View All