Alva Review-Courier -

Key Missouri senator drops opposition to drug database


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — After years of vehement opposition to a prescription drug tracking system, Missouri Sen. Rob Schaaf announced Tuesday that he's going to support it.

The announcement could signal the end of a hard-fought battle to make Missouri the last state to adopt a system that tracks when doctors write scripts and pharmacists fill prescriptions for opioids and other controlled substances. Schaaf has long been the staunchest critic of such programs, citing privacy concerns over putting people's sensitive medical records into a database that could be hacked.

In 2014, Schaaf led an eight-hour filibuster to effectively kill a similar drug monitoring bill. He has also fought for the proposal to go to a vote of the people and has created his own, more expensive, version of the program that would employ more data security measures. That proposal passed out of the Senate this year, but was not likely to make it through the House.

Schaaf told reporters Tuesday that after receiving pressure from the public, law enforcement, Senate leadership, the governor and the Missouri State Medical Association, he would withdraw his opposition.

"The push for this is just too great," he said.

But the Republican senator, who is a physician from St. Joseph, had just one condition for his support — that doctors be required to use the system. He said the program works best in states when prescribers are mandated to check the program before writing scripts. The current bill doesn't have such a provision.

"As a physician, I myself will commit that I am personally willing to be required to use it," he said. "And if a patient dies of an overdose because some prescriber just didn't check the (system), that too should be malpractice."

Schaaf said he wants the program to work, and he wants doctors to use it. He's also aware that the bill would likely pass in his absence. His last session in the Missouri Legislature is next year because of term limits.

The announcement came as a pleasant surprise to Rep. Holly Rehder, who has been on a quest to create a prescription tracking program for years. She has been endorsed recently as several counties across the state have adopted their own systems.

She said she supports Schaaf's amendment and didn't think it would keep the bill from passing.

"We are definitely going to take this into consideration right away," Rehder said.


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