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Drug system needs work

For all the talk about opioid addiction and the need to address it, an audit by the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office shows the state lags far behind others in preventing abuse.

The biggest problem appears to be weaknesses in Oregon’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) operated by the Oregon Health Authority. The program should allow the state to share information about potential abuse with health licensing boards and law enforcement, but state laws prevent the OHA from doing that. Auditors found 148 people who received controlled substance prescriptions from 30 or more different prescribers. One person had 290 opioid prescriptions filled by 75 pharmacies.

Oregon also is one of only nine states that does not require prescribing physicians and pharmacies to check the PDMP database before writing or filling prescriptions. And Oregon law does not require the state’s PDMP to collect some data that could help prevent abuse, including prescriptions filled by other than retail pharmacies, and prescriptions written by veterinarians that may be diverted to human use.

Deaths from opioid overdoses have declined in Oregon, but the number of deaths remains above the rate in 2000. An Oregonian dies from prescription opioids every three days on average.

In a letter, OHA Deputy Director Kris Kautz said her agency agrees with the findings, but state law limits OHA’s ability to comply with the recommended changes. Lawmakers should make it a priority to change those laws. This is more than just a bureaucratic problem. Lives are at stake.