The latest audit from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office looked at the way the Oregon Veterinary Medical Examining Board monitors the controlled substances veterinarians both use in their practices and prescribe for their animal patients. To put it gently, the audit found serious problems with the current state of affairs.
That said, the board and its staff are already working to address auditors’ main concerns.
Oregon’s opioid crisis is very real. Thus the National Center for Health Statistics reported 341 opioid-related deaths in the state from November 2017 to November 2018 — nearly one a day for the period. Some of the drugs responsible for those deaths almost certainly came from veterinary offices.
Yet the Veterinary Medical Examining Board, which licenses and regulates veterinarians and certified veterinary and euthanasia technicians, has been slow to tighten the rules around opioids, auditors found. Auditors made three recommendations they believe will improve the situation, and the board agreed with all three.
Thus it has completed a rewrite of rules to require criminal background checks on veterinarians and licensed staff and has begun doing those checks. It joins the 17 other states with similar requirements.
Too, it’s changing the rules so that its inspections of veterinary offices comply with federal Drug Enforcement Agency rules. It will receive comments on the rules through Nov. 29.
Finally, it will work with both the Oregon Health Authority and the Legislature to require veterinarians to take part in the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which was developed in part to ensure that prescription drugs are being used appropriately in the state. It will, apparently, take a legislative fix to make that happen.
Oregonians will be served best if the board enforces its new rules with an enthusiasm that may have been missing in the past. Opioids take a terrible toll in this state, and veterinarians must do their part to reduce that toll.