Franklin County Courthouse

Weeks after hearing presentations from Mercy doctors, Franklin County is renewing its participation in the regional Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) — at least for now.

In December 2017, the county commission voted 2 to 1 to join the PDMP hosted by St. Louis County and used by 75 jurisdictions, covering 85 percent of the state’s population. 

As of Jan. 1, 2018, all prescriptions of Schedule 2, 3 or 4 controlled substances had to be reported through a web-based monitoring program.

But in May 2020, a failed motion by Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker for the county to renew its participation in the program led to Franklin County withdrawing from the PDMP, even though participation costs the county nothing. Commissioners Dave Hinson and Todd Boland were not in favor of remaining in the program, saying they had received no updates on it.

But on Tuesday, Feb. 23, commissioners unanimously voted to renew their participation in the St. Louis County PDMP through Oct. 28.

Last year, Mercy Hospital Washington President Eric Eoloff said in May 2020 that the hospital has no immediate need for the PDMP because its electronic medical records system allows it to see what medications patients have previously been prescribed and that the hospital’s prescribing patterns around pain and other medications had became much more restricted by Mercy policy. 

But at the commission’s Tuesday, Feb. 2 meeting, Mercy Drs. David Chalk and Michelle Goetz spoke passionately about the need for the drug monitoring program, with Goetz discussing a patient who had made significant progress but who she later found to be self-prescribing opioids using old prescriptions after checking on the St. Louis PDMP.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Hinson said he is still against the county’s participation in the PDMP, but the county ordinance remains in place saying doctors and pharmacies have to report prescriptions to the PDMP, so it made sense to renew for now. “Since the contract has expired, they have not been allowed to report by St. Louis County,” he said.

The county could still consider repealing the ordinance in October, Hinson said. 

Goetz welcomed the news of renewed participation in the PDMP.

“Simply put, this is a resource to help patients who suffer with chronic pain, to help patients who suffer with narcotic tolerance and dependence,” Goetz told The Missourian. “It is a resource to tell us physicians where a patient is able, where the medical tool of an opioid is helping in addition to all of the other coping strategies that they are utilizing to help with their chronic pain, as well as addiction that might be playing into their medical condition.”

While she can’t say if being in the PDMP prevents deaths, Goetz said it made a big difference with the patient she discussed at the earlier meeting. “We were able to wrap around him and give him the care that he needed,” she said. “Hopefully next time he will be prepared to share with me when he is struggling more.”

Goetz said she is prepared to go back before the commission in October to encourage the county to again renew participation in the PDMP. But she is hopeful a statewide system will be in place by then.

“Really, we’re the only state in the nation that does not have a prescription drug monitoring program that is run statewide,” she said. “So hopefully that will take care of that problem if Franklin County determines not to continue to enroll past October. But certainly I’m prepared to go and speak to the good that this tool does.”

After the county announced it was withdrawing from the PDMP in May, pharmacist Marty Hinterlong, who owns the Medicine Shoppe in St. Clair, said the program has helped him stop at least 10 people from pill shopping and abusing prescription drugs in the two years the county had taken part.

Now, Hinterlong hopes the county’s PDMP participation will be permanent.

“If the Franklin County Commission walks away from it, they’re stupid,” he said. “That’s not something I can do my job without.”