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Will this be the year that Missouri sheds its embarrassing designation as the only state without a prescription drug monitoring program? We sure hope so.

After years of failed attempts, lawmakers have finally passed a measure that would create a prescription drug monitoring program, or PDMP, for Missouri. PDMPs, which are databases that provide physicians and pharmacists with patients’ prescription history, have been implemented in every other state in the nation in an effort to track and reduce opioid use.

In this state, a group of Republicans has blocked the measure by arguing that these databases threaten patient privacy. But with Missouri being the lone holdout, that argument no longer holds water. If literally every other state has figured out how to implement a PDMP that passes muster, why hasn’t Missouri?

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic dominating news headlines over the past year, it’s no secret that the opioid epidemic rages on in this country.

Addiction to opioids — including prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic substances such as fentanyl — has become a major public health crisis, leading to tens of thousands of opioid-involved overdose deaths in the U.S. annually, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Moreover, misuse of opioids costs us an estimated $78.5 billion each year, accounting for the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment and criminal justice involvement, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There’s also evidence that PDMPs have been working. A 2017 study found that estimated monthly opioid volumes decreased among disabled and older adults in 10 states that had PDMPs, compared with states without. And a 2018 study found that the opioid prescribing rate decreased among 15 emergency departments in Pennsylvania after that state implemented a PDMP in August 2016.

The Missouri measure now awaits final approval by Gov. Mike Parson. Parson has previously said he supports a statewide prescription database, so let’s hope that his signature comes swiftly. “Last State Without a PDMP” is not an honor we want anymore.

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