Missouri plans to potentially join the other 49 states that utilize a prescription drug monitoring program.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens issued an executive order earlier this week to create a drug monitoring database. The Department of Health and Senior Services is tasked with building the database that will help identify suspicious patterns of controlled substances, including opioids.

The 49 other states use monitoring programs to identify people who acquire excess prescriptions for addictive painkillers and tranquilizers as well as the physicians who over prescribe them.

In those states, doctors and pharmacists can access a database as they write and fill prescriptions to see where their patients are getting the medications from other doctors and pharmacies.

Rex Robinson of Rogers Pharmacy, said the drug monitoring program is long overdue. He added it’s a good idea but no one is saying how it’s supposed to work.

“They say they’re going to monitor prescription pharmacy dispensing which is all well and good but there is no mention of how all that’s going to be accomplished. There is no funding set aside for it ... we are more than willing to comply but the mechanism as to how to carry it out is totally unknown at this point.”

Robinson said he would like to see some sort of mechanism where an alert pops up on his computer screen that shows if and when a particular prescription has been filled more than once for a narcotic. That way he can alert prescribers as well.

“It’s a no brainer in my opinion,” Robinson said.

Kristina Hannon, vice president of behavioral health care for Family Guidance, said the program has been vitally needed in the state of Missouri for quite some time but there still needs to be more details about its implementation.

“There’s been several years of debate in Jefferson City about weighing issues of civil liberties versus our ability to identify people who need help and to get these people in treatment. That’s a really important conversation to have, but I think Gov. Greitens said it best when he signed the executive order and noted this is not the end all to prescription drug monitoring programming, or the end all, or cure, for the opioid epidemic. But this is a step and a very important step.”

Hannon said Family Guidance is a treatment provider, they know there are pill mills in the area, places people can go to get large quantities of prescriptions at high dosages.

“No one wants those places to remain active but what is most important in terms of a prescription drug monitoring program is giving doctors a tool and giving pharmacists a tool they can log into and see if this person has been to four other doctors to get the prescription for oxycodone in the last month.”

Critics including the Missouri Foundation for Health, the Missouri State Medical Association and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, point out that Greitens’ order doesn’t specifically allow doctors and pharmacists to access the information. So it would do little to stop addicts and dealers from “doctor shopping” for their supplies. Which, after all, is the problem.

Garry Hammond, CEO for Family Guidance, said Gov. Greitens did a great job in bringing awareness to the problem but the database falls short in that it doesn’t identify the people who need treatment.

“The problem is, if they can’t get opioids legally from a physician then they go to the street. And we don’t know what happens, but there’s a good chance they will end up with heroin which is even more dangerous. What Gov. Greitens does is address half the solution.

“What is needed ideally is to get the legislature involved and expand it so the people needing treatment can recover, otherwise they’re going to go to the street and we’ll have even more deaths.”

Alonzo Weston can be reached at alonzo.weston@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPWeston.