WHAT OTHERS SAY: Missouri needs a way to monitor prescription drug abuse

Tuesday, April 22, 2014 | 12:35 p.m. CDT

Law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges in Northwest Missouri well understand the threat posed by illegal drug use. So do medical professionals and our social welfare workers.

News reports have documented the rise in heroin-related crimes and the continuing toll that can be attributed to methamphetamine addiction. Both of these drugs contribute to serious health issues, including premature death; criminal actions to support the drug habit; and countless families torn apart by destructive behaviors.

Consider this: Prescription drug abuse is an even bigger problem, linked to 16,000 deaths a year in the United States.

"One of the things that we are seeing as a nationwide trend is that a lot of people are using prescription medication and diverting it for illegal use," says Capt. Mike Donaldson with the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force. "It is super destructive, and is described as synthetic heroin."

We encourage area citizens concerned for their communities to support legislative proposals for a prescription drug monitoring program that would allow Missouri authorities to electronically analyze drug purchases and detect when prescriptions are being abused.

Examples of this criminal behavior include obtaining prescriptions from more than one doctor, obtaining prescribed medications from more than one pharmacy, and forgery of prescriptions.

Shockingly, Missouri is the only state not to have an electronic prescription drug monitoring program. This year's proposal, House Bill 1133, passed the House in February but now is languishing in a Senate committee and is given little chance of passage.

A key opinion leader on this issue, state Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, opposes this legislation on privacy grounds, and his use of the legislative process has contributed to stopping it from becoming law. He has said he considers it a dead issue for this year.

This is unfortunate. We think the privacy concern, if justified at all, is overblown. Further, it is out of proportion to the good that could come of this legislation.

Law-abiding citizens in Missouri — as in every other state of the union — understand the potential benefits that would flow from improved tracking of prescription drug sales.

Copyright St. Joseph News-Press. Distributed by The Associated Press.

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