Three weeks ago the Franklin County Commission decided to exit the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) hosted by St. Louis County and used by 75 jurisdictions covering 85 percent of the state’s population.
Commissioners Dave Hinson and Todd Boland were in favor of non-renewal of the PDMP, citing no updates on the program and Boland was not even aware it existed. After the commission vote, Mercy Hospital Washington also did a complete 180 and advised it felt the program was no longer needed.
In late 2017, it was officials from Mercy which advocated to the county to join the program.
The PDMP exit drew the ire of at least one St. Clair pharmacist, who said it was a valuable tool he used every day.
The pharmacist noted since the inception of the PDMP in Franklin County in the spring of 2018, Mercy doctors have “tightened up” their prescription writing.
But this also raised the question of what about patients with doctors outside of the Mercy system?
Dr. David Chalk, president of Mercy Clinic Four Rivers, explained both Mercy and area pharmacies are aware there are patients outside of the Mercy system who continue to move from one pharmacy to another in Franklin County in an attempt to get prescription refills for opioids and other controlled substances.
“Although Mercy’s opioid prescribing policy has significantly changed over the past two years — and we have an electronic system for our providers to screen for abuse of medications — we sympathize with pharmacies that will not be able to look up non-Mercy patients in the PDMP program,” Chalk said. “Many of our primary care providers are reliant on both programs for this safeguard on a daily basis.”
Chalk added, in light of this, Mercy has asked Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker for the opportunity to jointly address the Franklin County Commission with area pharmacy representatives before the current PDMP program elapses in January to ask for the commission to renew its contract with St. Louis County for participation in its PDMP program.
Chalk, along with Mercy president Eric Eoloff and Safety and Security Manager Jason Grellner, were the ones who originally petitioned the commission about joining PDMP.
Grellner is a former Franklin County Sheriff’s lieutenant and commander of the Multi-County Narcotics and Violent Crimes Enforcement Unit.
Brinker was the lone commissioner in favor of the PDMP renewal last month and voted to join the system in December 2017.
Second District Commissioner Dave Hinson voted against the initial joining and has been against PDMP for many years. He said he is open to discussion, but the facts originally given to the county about PDMP were misleading.
“It was sold as a way to track opiates only,” Hinson said. “But it actually includes like 187 different types of drugs. If most people knew that they would come unglued. That’s why people have concerns.”
Hinson added he has spoken to pharmacists and there is some early discussion of possibly creating a PDMP specifically for Franklin County that only covers opioids.
Boland said he is open to discussion, but still against PDMP.
“I don’t know why we need one, if the state doesn’t have one itself,” Boland said. “If the state isn’t stepping up to the plate, why should we be forced to?”
Boland added he would be open to the idea of just tracking opiates in a PDMP as well.