Senate Bill 559, which would have added veterinarians to Oregon’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), came to a halt when the Senate Health Care Committee did not move the bill forward following a public hearing on the legislation.
The OVMA spearheaded efforts to defeat the bill, and we want to thank the many veterinarians who submitted written comments about SB 559 prior to the hearing and those who directly conveyed their concerns to committee members.
What Is the Intent of a PDMP
The purpose of the PDMP is to support access to legitimate medical use of controlled substances as well as to identify, deter or prevent drug abuse and diversion. While the OVMA believes SB 559 was well-intentioned and supports public policy efforts to address Oregon’s concerns about the opioids crisis, requiring veterinarians to be part of the PDMP is complicated and not as simple as proponents of the legislation believe it is, as such monitoring programs have been developed with human medicine, not veterinary medicine, in mind. According to the legislation, veterinarians would be required to report all controlled substances dispensed—not administered to patients in the facility—to their clients within 72 hours.
Proponents Fall Short in Public Testimony
During public testimony before the Senate Health Care Committee, the sponsor of the bill, plus representatives with the Secretary of State’s Office, which has called for veterinary participation in the PDMP, stated that veterinarians nationally, including here in Oregon, have said clients are intentionally harming their animals in order to gain access of controlled drugs for personal diversion.
- When asked by committee members to provide a citation of this comment, the SOS representatives could not come up with an answer, other than to say they will report back to the committee. As OVMA later learned, the source for the unfounded comment was a story that ran on Fox News.
- When asked to provide an example of a drug of concern that is dispensed by veterinarians and possibly diverted by veterinary clients, proponents mentioned ketamine—a schedule drug commonly administered to animal patients in a veterinary facility but not dispensed to clients.
- Proponents noted that West Virginia is one of the states that Oregon closely studied, when deciding to seek legislation that includes veterinarians in the PDMP requirement.
OVMA Provides Compelling Comments to Committee
Dr. Heidi Houchen, past president, and Glenn Kolb, the association’s executive director, presented comments to the committee on behalf of the OVMA. Currently, veterinarians in Oregon are exempt from the PDMP, as are veterinarians in 33 other states. At one time, 10 of these states had required veterinary participation in their respective PDMPs but repealed these mandates for a variety of reasons. This includes West Virginia, which two years ago overturned the mandate that veterinarians in that state be part of the PDMP.
- Veterinarians prescribe miniscule amounts of controlled substances compared to their human counterparts—and the drugs that are contributing to overdose deaths and most overdoses are not drugs most often used in veterinary medicine.
- HIPAA privacy concerns about accessing—intentionally or unintentionally—a client’s personal prescription history. Veterinarians are not their client’s physician, and it is inappropriate to gain access to this information.
- Challenges with recording and inputting 11 points of data that are required into the PDMP. Integration of Oregon’s PDMP requires adherence to specific ASAP pharmacy software, which current veterinary PIMS cannot meet. As a result, veterinarians would be required to enter the expected data through a web portal. This would be onerous and labor intensive, require training, and add to the cost of providing veterinary care—all at a time when the veterinary profession is experiencing a serious staffing shortage.
- Dosages are significantly different in human medicine and veterinary medicine. And human physicians who query the PDMP are not trained and educated as to the dosages veterinarians prescribe for the multiple animal species they treat.
- Uncertainty as to whose information should be entered into the PDMP and whose information should be queried, if that were to be necessary. Animal patients often have several caretakers, and the language in the bill does not identify whose data must be captured and recorded.
- Uncertainty about the validity and usefulness of the veterinary information collected by the PDMP.