As discussions surrounding misuse of prescription drugs continue, local officials are encouraging physicians to enroll in local prescription drug-monitoring programs.
While the Missouri Legislature debated issues surrounding the impact a PDMP has on patient privacy, St. Louis County started its own in April and encouraged other counties to join.
"It is a tool that physicians can use to manage their patients' medication and potentially prevent medication misuse or addiction," Cole County Health Department Director Kristi Campbell said.
Cole County subscribed to the system earlier this year, intending for it to work seamlessly with any proposed state legislation that would allow doctors access to patient prescription history.
Legislation pertaining to a statewide PDMP has been circling the General Assembly for the past five years.
A local taskforce headed by Cole County Health Department recently met to discuss other ways to combat opioid abuse across the community, noting the low utilization of the existing PDMP at the county level.
To date, only 14 physicians have subscribed to the program, Campbell said.
"One reason this may occur is because of the recent executive action by the governor, which calls for a statewide prescription drug-monitoring program," Campbell said. "One frame of thought is that because of this executive action, we are covered."
Campbell said the executive action is a multi-phased plan for the state to target "pill mills" and doctors who over-prescribe — not giving doctors access to patient prescription history, which is needed to make informed decisions when prescribing for patients.
Since April, 48 of Missouri's 114 counties have signed on to the program hosted through Appriss, a prescription drug database that has implemented PDMPs in 23 other states.
In 2016, there were 908 heroin- and opioid-related deaths in the state, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
A similar report noted people age 65 and older in Cole County have the highest rates of distribution for controlled substances, such as opioids, while people ages 24-34 were reported to have the highest rate of opioid-involved deaths.
"When we look at the data, the population being prescribed the opioids, whether it be for chronic pain or cancer, are not the ones dying from overdoses," Campbell said. "This is why it's important for us as a county and a state to come together to address the issue."
For information on PDMP enrollment in Cole County, contact Campbell at email@example.com.
Campbell also encourages health care professionals to register for the Missouri Opioid Summit on Nov. 29, hosted by the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services.
"We hope this is an opportunity to join forces and find ways to adopt more resources to combat this growing epidemic," she said.