At the end of session we revisited the Prescription Database Monitoring Program (PDMP) law, which was passed over our strong objections in 2009 (SB 355). We have been monitoring the implementation of this law by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) over the past year. This law authorizes the government to create a database of those prescribed controlled substances, Schedules II, III & IV (most pain medications as well as sleep aids and Ritalin). Oregon estimates it will database 5 million prescriptions per year and the information collected will be made available on an electronic database to doctors and pharmacists. Although purported to deal with drug seekers (but more recently touted as an aid to assist providers with medication assistance), the PDMP puts hundreds of thousands of Oregonians’ medical information at risk. The risks include misuse by those authorized to use the system (a doctor or pharmacist who wants to check on the prescription information of someone who is not a patient), theft by someone hacking into the system (which happened in Virginia), and misidentification because of common names and dates of birth. We wrote extensively about our objections in our 2009 legislative report.

This spring we filed comments on the draft rules implementing the PDMP and we specifically called into question the portion providing patient notification about the PDMP. The draft rules provided that patient notification was sufficient if pharmacies posted a sign about the PDMP. We knew that this did not comply with the law because it was our amendment to the 2009 law that specifically required individualized patient notification. Generic posters would not be sufficient to notify patients because very few people pay any attention to the various signs at a pharmacy and, more importantly, patients would not be provided with contact information if they had any questions or notification that under the law they have certain rights. Because of our instance about the patient notification requirement, the OHA obtained an Oregon Attorney General opinion that concurred with our opinion (and the law), and the final rules were changed to require individual patient notification.

As a result, near the end of session, the various lobbyists representing the Oregon State Pharmacy Association, the Oregon Community Pharmacy Council and various chain pharmacies attempted to modify the law requiring individual notification by either placing the duty exclusively on doctors (which would be far less successful to implement than through pharmacies and was, not surprisingly, opposed by the Oregon Medical Association once they heard about it) or requiring a poster sign at either pharmacies or doctors’ offices. We strongly opposed these proposals. There were quite a few bills still moving through the legislative process that would have been vehicles to add this change to the PDMP law. We worked to stop all of these attempts, first in the Senate Judiciary Committee and then in the House and Senate Rules Committees.

Pharmacies have been collecting prescription data since June 1, 2011 and, at the same time, providing individual notice to patients (the database will be operational later this year). Despite their concerns it appears that individualized notice can be achieved and we hope they will not return in February 2012 to amend the law. But if they do, we will oppose any effort to weaken patient protections.

WIN: Amendments Died in Committees