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Ruffridge bill, to exempt veterinarians from opioid reporting, passes legislature

Justin Ruffridge chairing the House Education Committee in April.
Riley Board
Justin Ruffridge chairing the House Education Committee in April.

Both the Alaska state House and Senate have passed a bill to exempt veterinarians from reporting to the state’s prescription drug database. Soldotna Republican Rep. Justin Ruffridge sponsored the bill during his first session in the House.

Veterinarians in the state are currently required to report scheduled substances to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, or PDMP. The PDMP was created in 2008, and became mandatory for all who administer prescription drugs in 2017, in response to rising opioid overdoses in Alaska.

But veterinarians say it has never made sense for them to participate in the PDMP. Because animals don’t have unique identifiers, vets end up looking at the prescription history of their owners, a complicated privacy issue and ethical gray area. Reporting to the PDMP also creates extra work for already strained veterinary staff, and vets rarely prescribe opioids anyway, according to advocates for the bill.

Ruffridge’s bill passed the House overwhelmingly in March, and flew through the Senate two weeks ago. This bill, and others Ruffridge has worked on during his first session, reflect his background as a pharmacist.

The bill is now waiting to be sent to Gov. Mike Dunleavy for a signature. Once it gets to his desk, the governor has about 20 days to officially endorse it.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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