JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Amid a nationwide opioid crisis, Missouri lawmakers advanced proposals Wednesday to make it easier for people to get rid of unused prescriptions.
Both the House and Senate gave initial approval in voice votes to bills that would create a drug take-back program.
Local pharmacies could opt to house disposal boxes for pills and medications, as long as the site was approved by the Drug Enforcement Administration. Currently, local pharmacies are barred from taking prescriptions they did not dispense.
The Senate bill would also limit some initial opioid prescriptions to no more than seven days, unless the doctor believed a longer prescription was necessary and there was no suitable alternative. Certain patients, such as those receiving cancer treatments, were exempted from the seven-day limit.
U.S. deaths linked to opioids have quadrupled since 2000 to roughly 42,000 in 2016. Almost 1,000 Missourians died in 2016 because of a heroin or opioid overdose, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The House bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Jay Barnes, said during a floor debate that unused drugs are susceptible to theft or accidents. He said the program could help get medications out of circulation.
GOP Sen. David Sater, a pharmacist who sponsored the Senate bill, told colleagues on the Senate floor that patients can become physically addicted to opioids within two weeks. He said limiting initial exposure to the drugs “can save a lot of the expense, pain and suffering” caused by addiction.
“These two provisions aren’t going to completely solve this problem, but I feel it’s a big step in the right direction,” Sater said. “This issue is not going away, and doing nothing is not an option.”
The Senate proposal would also lower the age that children can receive flu vaccinations at pharmacies. Children currently must be at least 12. The bill would allow pharmacies to give those vaccinations to kids as young as seven or the age recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depending on which is higher.
Both the House and the Senate must vote on their proposals again before either bill is sent to the opposite chamber.
Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine contributed to this report.