Missouri House members took the first step Wednesday to become the last state to adopt a database to track prescriptions for addictive drugs, but the measure still has a long way to go.
The bill, which received initial approval in a voice vote, would create a database to track when doctors write prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substance drugs and when pharmacists fill those scripts.
The measure needs another vote of approval in the House in order to move to the Senate, where it's died in past years.
The goal of prescription tracking is to cut down on doctor shopping, when people go from physician to physician for opioids and other drugs, then fill scripts at multiple pharmacies.
Rep. Holly Rehder said under her bill, physicians would be able to see whether patients have recently visited other doctors to get painkillers. She said if physicians notice problems, they can help abusers kick addictions.
"We want to catch addiction on the front end," said Rehder, a Sikeston Republican.
Under Rehder's bill, doctors and pharmacists initially would have 24 hours to report and would need to update the database in real time by 2020.
Rehder has been proposing a monitoring program since her first term as a House member in 2013. The measure has failed every year.
Critics in Missouri cite privacy concerns with a government database of medical data, and skeptics question whether the programs help cut back on addiction.
Republican Rep. Justin Hill, a former O'Fallon police officer who has worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration, said grant money planned to create the database should instead go toward drug treatment.
"We should fix it by treating these individuals and keeping them out of jail," he said. "By building a database we are absolutely doing nothing but hiding the problem and burying those people deeper in addiction."
Harrisonville Republican Rep. Rick Brattin tried and failed to gut the bill and replace it with a plan to have patients sign off on drug testing if they accept opioid prescriptions from physicians.
An amendment by Republican Rep. Jay Barnes of Jefferson City would have added an option for addicts to voluntarily put their names on a list to warn doctors against providing those patients prescriptions painkillers and other drugs, similar to problem gambling lists. It also failed.