For years, there's been debate over balancing the need to track potentially addicted patients by providing their clinicians with a vast amount of data on their prescription drug habits and maintaining the privacy of those patients' records.
The number of overdoses caused by opioids makes the case for maintaining robust drug-monitoring databases, some experts say.
Now the ongoing fight to track opioid prescriptions in the holdout state of Missouri has once again raised discussion on whether the country would be best served by a national monitoring system—or whether it's too late to implement that idea because the drugs causing overdoses are bought on the street.
Missouri is the only state in the nation without a prescription-drug-monitoring program, which collects information to warn physicians that they may overprescribe opioids and prevent a patient from seeking prescriptions from multiple physicians.
Republican Missouri state Sen. Rob Schaaf, a family physician and a longtime opponent of drug-monitoring programs, recently introduced a bill that would allow a physician to view a patient's medical data only when the state's Department of Health and Senior Services identified cases of doctor-shopping. Critics say a monitoring program just gives physicians more work, while others say it will just track the wrong addictions since drug use has shifted.
Supporters contend a national program expands and streamlines the information available.
“I think that there wouldn't be anyone who would disagree with the idea that it would be better to have a single national system rather than all of these different state systems,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at Brandeis University.