Columbia above average in amount of controlled substance, opioid prescriptions

COLUMBIA, Mo. - ORIGINAL: New data from the St. Louis County Department of Health shows that Columbia doctors prescribed controlled substances at a higher rate than several other counties and cities that participate in a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program through St. Louis County.

Columbia leaders approved the program back in March and pharmacies started using the program in April.  As of Sept. 30, 48 jurisdictions have enacted legislation to participate in the St. Louis County PDMP program. The initial data from the St. Louis County Department of Health is from April to June, so it only includes the 14 jurisdictions that had enacted legislation around that time.

Kilgore's pharmacist Bill Morrisey said that the program has allowed them to have a tool that backs up their "intuition" when they spot someone they think might be doctor shopping.

"It helps a person sleep at night more knowing that they're doing the right thing and that they know they have something to back them up in that regard," he said.

Columbia, Cooper County, Cole County and Jefferson City are the only mid-Missouri jurisdictions included in this data. Boone County enacted legislation too late to be included in this quarter. At the time of the report, all the pharmacies in Columbia had submitted data to the program.

The number of approved users has grown by the thousands between April and September. The majority of registered users are made up of pharmacists and doctors, but dentists and podiatrists also make up the list.

There are about 1,000 physicians in Columbia and 10 percent have signed up to be users. Boone County Department of Health Director, Stephanie Browning, said their goal was to have about 35 percent of physicians participate because not every doctor prescribes opioids. 

According to the data, when compared to all 14 jurisdictions, seven of them have significantly higher dispensation rates per 1,000 people of Schedule II through IV drugs. Of the four mid-Missouri jurisdictions included, Columbia is the highest. Cole County (which includes Jefferson City data, is in dark blue) wasn't included in the top seven, but as the table shows, it is only slightly lower than Columbia.

Columbia is the second data set from the left, in light blue. University Hospital doctor Lucas Buffaloe said that while Columbia's numbers skew higher than the average (light green on the far right), it's not by much so it didn't alarm him.

"I suspected that Columbia would be about average for the state and about average nationwide," he said. "If you look at controlled substance and opioid prescription rates across the nation, this is about the numbers that we're seeing."

Breaking it down even further to a piece of scheduled drugs, opioids, Columbia is also just slightly above average for opioid dispensation. 

The data also indicates that of the 14 jurisdictions, women receive more controlled substance prescriptions than men. This is also true in Columbia. Buffaloe said this was probably because women are more likely to access medical services and can also report higher rates of chronic pain.

The Department of Health indicates that hydrocodone (grey), oxycodone (gold) and tramadol (green) are the three most frequently prescribed opioids. Those three comprise 85 percent of all opioids dispensed.

Columbia pharmacies reported that of the different age groups, they provided Schedule II-IV prescriptions at the highest rate to people between the ages of 55-64. Opioid prescriptions were prescribed at the highest rate to those who are 65 and up.

UPDATE 2:45 pm: In response to the study published, the Cole County Sheriff's Department and the Taos Water District #4 are partnering up to host a Drug Take Back Event.

People are welcome to bring unused or unwanted prescription medication to the event to dispose of properly. This will prevent future misuse of the medications and protect the environment.

The event will be located at the Taos Water District #4 office at 7712 Route M, Taos, MO on October 28 from 10 am - 2 pm.

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