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03 February 2012

Engler: Stopping Prescription Drug Abuse in Missouri

We had our first lengthy filibuster in the Senate this week over Senate Bill 592, which modifies the law relating to the Missouri Human Rights Act and employment discrimination. This is a highly controversial bill. Supporters claim it will make Missouri more hospitable to businesses. Opponents say it is a major step backwards for workers’ rights.

Many of us in the Senate were frustrated by the situation. We passed almost the exact same bill last year. The governor vetoed it, as he’ll probably do this time. There are a lot of pressing issues we need to address this session. It’s hard to watch valuable time spent on a bill that will more than likely die on the governor’s desk.

Last week I filed Senate Bill 710, which would establish a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. If this bill passes, it could be one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of the General Assembly this year. Prescription drug abuse is one of the fastest growing types of drug abuse in the country. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, annual admissions to substance abuse treatment centers for prescription pain reliever abuse increased by 131 percent from 2003 to 2009. The annual number of deaths from unintentional overdoses of these drugs has increased by 83 percent in the same amount of time.

Despite this, Missouri and New Hampshire are the only states in the entire country without a prescription drug monitoring program. All of our neighboring states have some sort of program in place for tracking prescription medications. People are coming into Missouri from those states to find their prescription drugs because we don’t track them. We have people who “doctor shop,” going from one doctor to another, until they’re prescribed the drug they want.

We must do more to fight prescription drug abuse in Missouri. Senate Bill 710 would require the Department of Health and Senior Services to develop a program to monitor the prescribing and dispensing of all Schedule II through Schedule V controlled substances by all licensed professionals who prescribe or dispense these medications in Missouri.

This does two things: It prevents people from shopping around and getting multiple prescriptions to the same drugs, and it monitors (with a warrant) doctors who are over-prescribing or abusing their privileges. With a drug monitoring program, we could prevent incidents like the one that took place in Washington County where a doctor prescribed dozens of prescriptions of OxyContin in one day.

Everyone I’ve spoken to in the medical community supports this bill. Doctors are in support of this legislation because they tell me only doctors with something hide in their prescription patterns would oppose it. Representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, which benefits from every prescription sold, tell me that’s not the type of business they want. Ten other senators have already signed on to this bill, and I’ve strongly urged my colleagues to help me get this legislation passed.

I also filed Senate Bill 737 this week, which would restrict the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) from including data from facilities serving neglected or delinquent children in the overall data collected from a school district.

These facilities, like the Valley Springs Youth Ranch in Reynolds County, are wonderful organizations that give troubled youth a second chance. However, these schools are also for exceptional cases. I don’t believe their information should be included with regular public schools’ data. This information is used in the Foundation Formula for a school district, a way of determining how much state aid it will receive.

The legislation would stop DESE from including the data from facilities dealing with troubled youth unless the information is annotated to differentiate between the two and an explanation is included. This would ensure fairness in the distribution of state funding to school districts, whether they include a school for neglected and delinquent children or not.

To follow my sponsored legislation, visit my Senate website at I will continue to keep you updated on the events at the Capitol.

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