Legislature votes to repeal Alaska law including veterinarians in opioid monitoring

    Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks Monday, May 8, 2023, on the floor of the Alaska House. (Photo by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)

    Juneau, Alaska (Alaska Beacon) - The Alaska Legislature has reversed a seven-year-old law that requires veterinarians to participate in the state’s prescription drug monitoring program.

    The state Senate voted 19-0 on Friday to approve the repeal measure, House Bill 56. The House previously voted 35-1 to approve the bill, which now returns to the chamber for a procedural vote before advancing to the inbox of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

    Sponsored by Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, HB 56 was the result of years of lobbying by veterinarians, who argued that their inclusion in the prescription drug program didn’t make sense and could create privacy concerns.

    Veterinarians aren’t bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Actthe  — the federal law governing medical privacy — and inclusion in the drug monitoring program meant they had access to the medical records belonging to the owners of the animals they treated.

    “This is a major privacy concern,” said Sen. Löki Tobin, D-Anchorage and the bill’s Senate sponsor.

    Tobin also noted that veterinarians prescribe relatively few opioid drugs, which creates little risk that those drugs may be abused.

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