McCaskill Holds Missouri Hearing on Opioid Addiction

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D- MO) is calling on Missouri lawmakers to join the rest of the country in finally adopting a prescription drug monitoring system.

McCaskill chaired a public hearing in Jefferson City Wednesday to spotlight what she calls an "epidemic" of prescription drug abuse and addiction to opioid narcotics.

Last year, drug overdoses killed more than 40,000 Americans. Nearly two thirds of those deaths involved prescription pain killers, such as vicodin and oxycontin... 
"It's a problem in the country, but it's even more serious in Missouri," said McCaskill.  "We are the number-one prescriber of opioids in the Midwest."

As ranking minority member of the Senate Aging Committee, McCaskill is concerned about seniors with chronic pain who become addicted to opioid drugs.

"Some of the risk factors include social isolation, financial difficulties, and poor support systems," testified Dr. William Redden of St. Louis University.

A newer target population is wounded Gulf War veterans.   "Veterans continue to call upon VA clinicians to alleviate their pain," says Paul Walker with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The largest concern, however, is still young people who steal pain killers from their parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets, get hooked on the drugs, then turn to the street and heroin.

"My daughter became a main line user as well:  meth, bath salts, whatever ...to fill her need," testified Missouri state Rep. Holly Rehder (R-Sikeston).

McCaskill decries the exponential growth the prescription of opioid pain killers over the past 40 years. "Was this a solution looking for a problem ...and driven by the pharmaceutical industry?"

"It's not a simple answer to that question," said Bob Twillman with the American Academy of Pain Management.
McCaskill disagreed. "I'm afraid it is ....money."

The experts say a monitoring database would keep people from doctor shopping to get multiple prescriptions for pain killers.  Missouri is the only state left without one.

Missouri Sen. Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) opposes the idea. "Big Brother is going to know every controlled substance that you take."

"Common sense tells me, if there's 49 states on one side and one on the other, I think we're the ones that have it wrong, " McCaskill responded.

A state House committee is scheduled to review the measure Thursday.

State lawmakers have resisted enacting such a program for more than a decade because of worries about the security of a government database with medical information.

(KRCG for CBS Newspath)


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