The opioid addiction epidemic has been ravaging communities around the country. To combat it, 49 states have passed Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMP) to help address this issue. The PDMP is a statewide database that helps states address prescription drug abuse and addiction; one way is to have doctors report on how many prescriptions they are filling out for their patients.
One state using this program is New Hampshire, with promising results, according to the news website Union Leader. However, a new mandate that takes effect on January 1, 2017, is making veterinarians in the state very concerned.
Under the mandate, medical professionals will have to check the PDMP database before they write any prescriptions for opioids. Medical professionals who will fall under this mandate? Veterinarians.
And therein lies the problem. “It’s inappropriate and illegal for someone who’s not a human medical professional to make a medical determination about human beings,” Stephen Crawford, DVM, the state veterinarian who serves on the New Hampshire Board of Veterinary Medicine, told the Union Leader. “If a veterinarian accessed the database and found out that a client of theirs had been prescribed some opioid, what do they do with that information?”
As Crawford points out, this could change how practices operate. Veterinarians can’t make medical assessments of pet owners and, not wanting to give them access to opioids, may stop prescribing them for their animal patients.
“You’re now putting the veterinarian in a position where they have to make a medical determination on a human being, and that’s not OK,” Crawford said.
Manager of the PDMP, Michelle Ricco Jonas, says veterinarians play an important part in helping combat opioid addiction. She told the Union Herald that if veterinarians are exempt from the mandate, those seeking drugs might go to them under the guise of getting prescription medication for their pet. “The complexities of the reporting is very different in how [veterinarians] treat their patients versus human providers treating human patients,” she said. “[But] other states who have had veterinarians reporting obviously make it work.”
To that, Representative Carol McGuire, who heard Crawford’s objections and tried to remove veterinarians from the mandate, pointed out that many addicts wouldn’t go to veterinarians for drugs.
“I would suspect that it’s probably cheaper and easier to buy them on the street than to go get them from the veterinarian and then pay for it out of your own pocket,” she said.
For now, the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules in New Hampshire reject McGuire’s proposed changes. It’s back on the Board of Veterinary Medicine.