The St. Charles County Council has agreed to establish a prescription drug monitoring [PDMP] program that will operate cooperatively with St. Louis City and County.
County officials hope their actions will curb what authorities say is growing abuse of opiate-based drugs.
The council voted unanimously at its Sept. 26 meeting to approve a bill authorizing a PDMP after hearing from supporters and one opponent. Two speakers spoke in favor of the legislation.
“I and everyone that I know in medicine strongly supports this,” said Dr. David Poggemeier, an emergency room physician at SSM Health St. Joseph-West Hospital in Lake Saint Louis. “I think it really will help us to save lives. Weekly in our county, we have several people that die of some kind of narcotic overdose and it’s either prescription drugs or people overdosing on heroin.”
Former state Sen. Thomas Dempsey, who resigned his seat last year, said he had supported establishing a statewide PDMP for the last six years. “It was frustrating to not to be able to take care of this issue during my time in the legislature,” Dempsey said. He said legislators supporting the bill in 2013 where able to override a filibuster; however, amendments to put a $6 million fiscal note on the bill helped to kill it.
Nina Dean, an O’Fallon resident, spoke against the bill on Sept. 26 as she had on Sept. 12 when it was given a first reading. Dean said her review of health statistics suggests that Missouri doesn’t have the highest number of opiate overdoses among states, yet it’s the only one without a statewide PDMP. She suggested that heroin abuse may increase as a result of the PDMP, because opiate-based medication will be harder to obtain, pharmacists will be attacked, 24-hour and small pharmacies will be closed down, and private medical records could be hacked. “You can’t secure it [records],” she said. “It’s impossible.”
However, Hope Woodson, the county’s public health director, said the county and local governments involved in the PDMP “will house zero data.” Woodson said Appriss, a software firm, which now manages 22 state databases, would manage the system. She added that the county health department would not have access to protected health information and may only use aggregate data for studies.
County Councilmember Joe Brazil, [District 2], who sponsored the bill, said county officials don’t want to trample on privacy rights and are being very careful in what it does. County officials have worked with physicians, police, prosecutors, health care providers, and officials from other counties to try to come up with a solution to what he called a “heroin epidemic” that has to be addressed head on.
Woodson said the cost to the county may be about $8,000 per year. She also said the system may be operable around the first of next year.