JEFFERSON CITY -- Missouri's status as the last state to establish a prescription drug monitoring program may be coming to an end.
That's because the Republican senator who has helped kill the idea for two years -- Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph -- has decided to sponsor the legislation himself this year.
While he continues to oppose the idea in principle, he has agreed to carry the measure as long as it contains a referendum clause allowing voters to ultimately decide whether it becomes law. Last year's bill, which died after Schaaf led an eight-hour filibuster against it, also included a referendum clause.
Under the legislation, the database would include the identities of doctors prescribing certain medications and the patients receiving them, as submitted by pharmacies. That information could be provided to doctors and pharmacists, and law enforcement personnel could obtain it with a subpoena.
Another change that Schaaf insisted upon from previous incarnations of the bill is a provision removing a person's name from the database 90 days after the prescription was written or was filled by the patient. Last year's bill removed names after 180 days.
Advocates contend the database allows doctors and pharmacists to better monitor patients who frequently seek prescriptions.
After New Hampshire adopted a monitoring program last year, Missouri became the final holdout, prompting a visit from White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.
Kerlikowske argued that without a drug monitoring program, Missouri runs the risk of becoming a magnet for so-called “pill mills,” doctor’s offices that overprescribe medicines.
Critics of these programs – including Schaaf, a family physician and a first-term senator – believe prescription drug database represent an infringement on personal liberty. During his filibuster last year, Schaaf argued that citizens “shouldn’t have to give up their right to privacy just to stop people from doing bad things.”
The bill's original sponsor -- Republican Rep. Kevin Engler of Farmington -- could not be immediately reached for comment on the new legislation.