Missouri the only State to Refuse to Maintain a Prescription Drug Database

Wednesday, July 23, 2014
State Senator Rob Schaaf

The state that’s home to the maker of oxycodone, one of the most abused painkillers in the United States, is also the only one in the nation that doesn’t have a government prescription drug database, thereby encouraging misuse of medications.


Missouri has become, in the words of one local doctor and critic, “America’s Drugstore” as a result of law enforcement being unable to track down prescription drug abusers and black market sellers.


“We aren’t just allowing abuse, we’ve created a business model for dealers,” Dr. Douglas Char, a St. Louis emergency room physician, told The New York Times.


Politicians, healthcare workers, even the manufacturer of oxycodone, Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals in St. Louis, has called on the state legislature to get with the times and join the other 49 states in having a system to record those buying prescription drugs. (Forty-eight states currently operate such a database; New Hampshire will activate its system this year.)


Bills have been introduced to do just that. But they have been scuttled each time by Republican state Senator Rob Schaaf and his allies.


Schaaf, a physician, favors personal privacy over expanding government authority to monitor drug sales.


“There’s some people who say you are causing people to die—but I’m not causing people to die. I’m protecting other people’s liberty,” Schaaf told the Times. “Missouri needs to be the first state to resist, and the other states need to follow suit and protect the liberty of their own citizens.”


Saving even a single life outweighs hypothetical privacy issues, countered Republican state representative Kevin Engler, who sponsored one of the database bills. “We’re killing people,” he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “People have died from getting prescriptions from people that illegally bought them.”


That doesn’t seem to concern Schaaf. “If they overdose and kill themselves, it just removes them from the gene pool,” he reportedly said after helping to kill a drug database bill in 2012.


Other Republicans have grown frustrated with Schaaf’s obstructionism, particularly those in neighboring states trying to stem their own drug abuse problems. With Missouri being so lax, drug addicts often cross the border and buy what they need, then return to Kentucky or one of the other seven nearby states.


“It’s very selfish on Missouri’s part to hang their hat on this privacy matter,” U.S. Representative Harold Rogers (R-Kentucky) said. “The rest of us suffer.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Missouri Alone in Resisting Prescription Drug Database (by Alan Schwarz, New York Times)

Prescription Drug Database Gets First-Round Approval in Missouri House (by Marie French, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Overprescribing Doctors Safe from State’s Underutilized Drug Database (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)


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