Apr 9, 2016 1:01 PM

Veterinarians join the fight against drug abuse

CONCORD - Veterinarians will likely be included in the fight against heroin and opioid abuse.

The Concord Monitor reported that while much of the state's opioid crisis is blamed on prescription pain medication, over-prescribing and diversion, pain medication prescribed by veterinarians also gets abused.

“I can speak of this anecdotally, certainly in my position at the attorney general’s office as head of the drug prosecution unit, we have seen people diverting their pets’ drugs,” said James Vara, the new Governor’s Advisor on Addiction and Behavioral Health, who testified at a public hearing Wednesday on opioid prescribing practices.

Now, the New Hampshire Veterinary Medical Association is faced with the task of making sure pet owners aren't diverting their pets' narcotic pain medication.

Vara said he thinks the state veterinary board should be included in talks about opioid prescribing. Currently, New Hampshire's boards of medicine, dentistry and podiatry are drafting new prescribing rules.

Veterinarians also testified at Wednesday's public hearing. Because vets deal with animal patients, they do not fall under the same HIPPA privacy laws as doctors who care for humans.

New legislation could require veterinarians to check the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database regularly. The database will list the legal owners of pets who are receiving opioid prescriptions.

Suzan Watkins, an Allenstown veterinarian, said the issue would be likely to arise with older pets with chronic pain, rather than pets who get a two-day prescription after surgery.

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