Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Let the People Decide! Prescription Drugs and the Democratic Process

From what I can gather, 43 states have some form of Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) up and running.  An additional 6 states have authorized such a program, but the systems are not yet functional or the concept hasn't yet been adequately funded.  That leaves a single state lagging behind all the rest: Missouri. 

Last year's legislative session saw Representative Kevin Engler introduce legislation that would create a PDMP.  The bill never came to a vote in the Missouri State Senate thanks to an 8 hour filibuster from Senator Rob Schaaf, a trained physician whose concern about patient privacy over patient safety made his state a bit of a laughing stock among those serious about combating prescription drug misuse.  (See PDMPs: NY Sets the Standard, MO Lags Behind).

Senator Schaaf is back this legislative session and has a new idea for how best to reconcile the competing ideals of privacy and safety: punt.  The good Senator apparently isn't comfortable with the idea of legislative representation, so his Senate Bill 146 calls for a state-wide referendum on the issue.  If the people of the Show Me State don't want to become the nation's capital for prescription drug abuse, well that's going to be on their heads... not on Senator Schaaf's. 

The more I think about it, though, the more I'm convinced he's on to something.  Perhaps things in most states would work better if state legislators got out of the way and let the people decide how the system should work.  In reality, this is impractical given the thousands of nuances and technicalities involved.  But for fundamental issues - like ones involving trade-offs between basic, but competing ideals - turning to the people might not be a bad idea.

Let's just hope, if SB 146 passes, that the people of Missouri do the right thing.

On Twitter @PRIUM1

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