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GOP senator says he'll support bipartisan-backed bill creating prescription drug monitoring program

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph
File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
State Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph

Updated at 6:55 p.m. with more details — In an unexpected move, state Sen. Rob Schaaf said Tuesday night that he now backs the House version of a prescription drug monitoring program, putting Missouri on track to become the last state in the nation to establish such a program.

The Republican from St. Joseph, who had opposed the House bill due to privacy concerns, said at a news conference that he changed his mind due to overwhelming support from medical professionals and from Gov. Eric Greitens. 

His only request is that language be added that requires doctors to use the monitoring program, saying, “especially since the people of Missouri are giving up a measure of their privacy by having their private medical information put on a government database.”

He continued, "As a physician, I, myself, will commit that I am personally willing to be required to use it, and if a patient dies of an overdose, because some prescriber just didn't check the PDMP, that, too, should be malpractice."

The House version, HB 90/68 that’s sponsored by Sikeston Republican Holly Rehder, passed Monday night 102-54 with bipartisan support. It would allow doctors to access patients’ prescription records online to make sure they’re not getting multiple refills from various pharmacies, a practice known as doctor-shopping.

"I'm speechless," Rehder said after Schaaf's announcement. "We didn't realize this was coming."

Rehder has said a monitoring program is crucial to fighting the current opiate epidemic.

Credit Tim Bommel I House Communications
Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston

“In Greene County, in 2013, they had one death from opiates,” she said on Monday. “Fast-forward to 2015, just two years later, they’ve had 61 opiate overdoses — this is in Greene County alone — and 20 heroin deaths.”

She also cites the rising number of city and county-operated drug monitoring programs in Missouri, including St. Louis County, as evidence that the public wants and supports her proposal.

Schaaf’s bill, SB 74, would have used a software program to spot potential doctor-shopping by patients while shielding their identities from doctors.

Republican Sen. Dave Schatz of Sullivan is sponsoring a bill that’s identical to Rehder’s proposal, SB 231, and could be the one Senate leaders choose to pass. The deciding factor will likely be which one will have the quicker path to Greitens' desk before the 2017 session ends next month.

Follow Marshall Griffin on Twitter:@MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.