by Sen. Jeff Kruse (R-Roseburg)
The Oregon Senate passed a significant bill this week: Senate Bill 470. SB 470 deals with Oregon’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which was created two years ago after 8 years of work on the concept. To put the issue in context, Oregon is fourth in the nation in prescription drug abuse. Additionally, in the United States last year, the number of deaths from drug abuse was actually greater than the number of deaths from automobile accidents. We clearly have a problem.
The two main purposes of the program are to allow doctors to be able to see what other drugs their patients might be taking from another provider to prevent possible drug interactions and also to be able to tell if someone is “drug shopping”. I have been involved in the creation of this program from the beginning and I have been the lead member from the legislative side. Our objective was to create a program that was easy for providers to use and also was protected from access by anyone else (including law enforcement). The safety and the protocols around the system are working very well. We also knew we probably hadn’t gotten everything right and would need to make further adjustments over time.
Last summer I was invited, as a member of the Oregon delegation, to a meeting in Alabama sponsored by the National Governor’s Association dealing with drug abuse primarily because of my involvement in these issues. There were seven states at the meeting and we were able to share our experiences and ideas. I find this type of meeting very valuable and I am looking forward to the next one which will be in Colorado sometime this spring. Our small group from Oregon got together and came up with a list of modifications to the program we thought were appropriate. When we got back to Oregon the Governor convened a much larger group to review our recommendations and the result was SB 470.
The changes to the program are: clarifying personal information to make sure each person’s data is actually theirs, allowing a doctor to check their own data to make sure nobody else is using their DEA number, allowing a doctor to assign the duty of data entry to someone in their office, a “red flag” provision so the system can inform the provider of a potential problem, the ability of the Board of Pharmacy to add non-scheduled drugs to the program, and the ability of doctors from adjoining states to be able to check on their patients who are Oregon residents.
The only real opposition to the bill was from the ACLU, who was opposed to the program from the beginning. I think we are headed in the right direction and these changes will just make it work better. I will note, however, there is a problem as the DEA thinks they should have access to the system. We absolutely disagree as this is a state program. I recently had a conversation with our Attorney General, as this case is now in the federal district court. We think we can win, but we are prepared to take it to the Ninth Circuit Court or beyond if necessary. Clearly it will be a while before this issue is resolved, but we will do everything we can to defend state’s rights on this issue.