TESTIMONY OF GORDON H. SMITH, EVP, MAINE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION
IN SUPPORT OF
L.D. 1730, AN ACT TO REMOVE VETERINARIANS FROM THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES PRESCRIPTION MONITORING PROGRAM
Committee on Health and Human Services
Cross State Office Building, Room 209
Thursday, February 8th, 2018
Senator Brakey, Representative Hymanson and members of the committee. I am Gordon Smith, Executive Vice President of the Maine Medical Association and I reside in East Winthrop, Maine. As you know, the Association represents the interests of over 4200 Maine physicians, medical students and residents in training. The mission of the Association is to support Maine physicians, advance the quality of medicine in the state and promote the health of all Maine citizens. It is my pleasure to be able to present to you today our brief testimony on behalf of our members and we join the state's veterinarians in supporting the bill.
Originally, the law establishing the Prescription Monitoring Program in 2004 did not include veterinarians. The Association worked with Rep. Anne Perry on that legislation and it took two years to get it passed. Since that time, the PMP has become an important tool in preventing "doctor shopping" by those individuals abusing controlled substances or trafficking in illegal drugs. We also worked closely with Governor LePage and his staff in 2016, particularly David Sorenson, in drafting chapter 488 and the amendments to it, which when enacted gave the State the most stringent requirements in the country for prescribing opioid medication. Since the law was enacted, there has been a very substantial reduction in the number of opioid prescriptions written in the state.
In working on chapter 488, there was considerable discussion about whether to include veterinarians in the new law. At that time, prescriptions written by veterinarians for our pets represented about one percent of the prescriptions in the PMP database. A decision was made by the drafters and eventually this committee to include them, but I recall quite vividly the public hearing and the testimony of some veterinarians opposing the proposal. Part of the rationale for including them was the fear that individuals abusing or selling opioid medication would seek them out if all other prescribers were part of the PMP and they were not. I think the decision to include them made sense at that time. We were also aware that a handful of other states did include veterinarians in their prescription monitoring programs. However, the vast majority of states did not.
We support removing them from the requirement today because the experience in the past two years has, in our opinion, demonstrated that the danger of violating the medical privacy of the pet owner exceeds the benefit gained by including these small number of scripts in the database.
If the only way that the system can be administered makes the pet owners prescription records available to the veterinarian, then we believe the requirement to check the PMP should be eliminated. As I read the bill, there would be no prohibition of the veterinarian checking the PMP is they saw red flags and wanted to check the previous prescribing history. But the mandate to do so prior to initiating each opioid script would be eliminated.
Regarding the broadening of the language of the CME requirement, we think that makes sense as well.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify on the bill and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have