On Monday, key state and federal officials, physicians, pharmacists, and law enforcement officers met in Portland for a drug abuse prevention summit organized by U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton, Governor Ted Kulongski and Attorney General John Kroger. And what did they discuss? Oregon's distinction as the state with the highest rate of prescription drug abuse among 18 to 25 year-olds and the fifth-highest rate of overall prescription drug abuse.
According to a 2007 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, Oregon is also one of 16 states where drug-related deaths outnumber those caused by motor vehicle accidents.
A 2009 national survey of drug abuse revealed that dentists primarily are the ones prescribing painkillers to 15- to 19-year-olds, according to Tom Condon, a representative of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In the last legislative session, Oregon lawmakers approved a Web-based prescription drug monitoring program scheduled to start up in April 2011. Once a week, the website will be updated with information on who is prescribing and dispensing drugs, and in what quantity, to whom. The site will be accessible only to physicians and pharmacists; law enforcement can access the data with a court order.
That last bit kind of pisses Kroger off. According to the Oregonian, Kroger said that he's "dismayed" by the court order stipulation.
He said his Medicaid fraud unit would like to use the data to determine how much prescription drug abuse is being financed by Medicaid. He also pointed out there's nothing in the state law that requires those who do have access to the data to inform law enforcement if they spot someone doctor-shopping for pills, for example.
The O also notes that Katrina Hedberg, Oregon state epidemiologist and administrator of the Office of Disease Prevention and Epidemiology at the Oregon Public Health Division, said "the prescription monitoring program is being crafted with an effort to balance the needs of clinicians and secure the privacy of patients." Which is code for:This measure isn't designed to further infringement on our rights, sucker! Guess you'll have to convince a judge there's some sort of crime before you get to spy on Oregonians' pharmaceutical choices.