St. Charles County considering drug monitoring program to stop doctor shopping

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO (KPLR) – At Monday night’s St. Charles County Council meeting, elected officials held a public hearing on a measure which would create a prescription drug monitoring program in the county.

It would be operated in conjunction with similar programs in St. Louis city and county, and it is designed to prevent drug abuse.  The measure is co-sponsored by St. Charles County Executive Steve Ehlman and Councilman Joe Brazil.

Officials say it is in response to the abuse of opioids and heroin.

The program would be run by the county department of health.  Those prescribing and dispensing prescription drugs would become registered users of the new system.

They would be required to provide information to the county department of health so people would not be able to “double-up” on prescriptions through so-called “doctor shopping,” or using multiple physicians to obtain multiple prescriptions for otherwise illegal drugs.

Tim Lohmar, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney addressed the council.

“Our state is the only state in the entire country that does not have a prescription drug monitoring program.  I was at a meeting with DEA agents and U.S. attorneys from around the country just last week.  And Missouri is known affectionately as ‘America’s Drugstore,’” said Lohmar.

Nina Dean spoke out against the measure.

"PDMP proponents, you guys are all well-intentioned, I understand that.  I'd like to stop drug abuse also.  But not the issue of the privacy rights of the citizens of St. Charles County, who have done nothing wrong.  How will St. Charles County safeguard my information?"

Arnie Dienoff also opposes the measure.

Dienoff said, “This bill before the council doesn’t belong here.  It belongs in Jefferson City, our state capital, where it can be discussed in a broader sense.”

St. Charles County resident Dave Guest told council members, “Do we know this is not a violation of HIPPA?  My understanding is the state has access to that information, but it does not percolate down to the county level.”

Officials say they would consider using the same vendor as St. Louis city and county, adding information to a larger database in order to monitor prescriptions within a larger geographic area.