Oregon Health Authority Audit Release: Constraints on Oregon’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Limit the State’s Ability to Help Address Opioid Drug Misuse and Abuse

Report Highlights

The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program provides an important tool to address prescription drug abuse, including opioid abuse, and help improve health outcomes. Oregon’s laws have put constraints on the program that limit its effectiveness and impact. Restrictions are placed on what data are collected, analyses that can be done with the data, and with whom information can be shared. Correcting weaknesses in Oregon’s program will maximize its potential and help address opioid and other substance abuse issues the state faces.


Oregon has the highest rate in the nation of seniors hospitalized for opioid-related issues such as overdose, abuse, and dependence. The state also has the sixth highest percentage of teenage drug users. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) manages the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which collects information on controlled substance prescriptions within the state. The program was designed to promote public health and safety and to help improve patient care. It was also developed to support the appropriate use of prescription drugs.


The purpose of this audit was to determine if Oregon can better leverage its PDMP to help with the opioid epidemic.

Key Findings

  1. OHA could better use PDMP data to analyze trends in prescribed drugs, including identifying patterns of possible opioid misuse and abuse. State laws prevent OHA from sharing information with key stakeholders, such as health licensing boards and law enforcement, on questionable activity. Our analysis found people who have received opioid prescriptions from excessive numbers of prescribers, as well as instances of dangerous drug combinations and prescriptions for excessive dosages of drugs. One person who received an excessive amount of opioid prescriptions had some of those prescriptions paid for by Medicaid.
  2. Oregon is one of only nine states that does not require prescribers or pharmacies to use the PDMP database before an opioid prescription is written or dispensed. Mandating use can be effective in reducing opioid misuse and other health related outcomes.
  3. Due to statutory restrictions, Oregon’s PDMP does not collect some prescription information that could be critical in preventing prescription drug abuse. This includes prescriptions filled by pharmacies other than only retail, veterinarian prescribed prescriptions, prescriptions for Schedule V drugs and drugs known to be abused or misused such as gabapentin, and prescription details such as method of payment, lock-in status, and diagnosis information.


Our report includes 12 recommendations to OHA for optimizing the state’s PDMP. OHA can implement some of
these within existing statutes and rules, and for others it needs to work with the Legislature. OHA agreed with
all of the recommendations, but stated that because seven fall outside the scope of its statutory authority, its
ability to implement them is limited. The agency’s response can be found at the end of the report.

Read full report here.

Featured New Audit Release Performance Audit

Audits in the News: December

Audits in the News: End-of-year audits at DOGAMI, DHS earn media coverage

We here in the audits division are proud that the work we do makes a difference. Our work attracts the attention of the legislature, statewide news sources, and even local media outlets. Local media coverage of our audits is just another way we communicate with the people of Oregon about the work that we’re doing on their behalf to make government better. This is part of an ongoing series of posts rounding up recent instances in which the Oregon Audits Division makes a cameo in the local news.

As the year winds to a close, the Audits Division has been busy wrapping up and releasing several performance audits. We’ll cover some of the resulting news coverage in the new year. But two recently released audits — one focusing on employees’ concerns at the Department of Human Services, the other on federal funding management at the Department of Geology and Mineral Services — have received their fair share of media coverage.

You can read the entire DHS audit here, and the entire DOGAMI audit here.

The Oregonian/OregonLive – Survey: state human services employees lack resources, feel stressed and underpaid

Read the story here.

“Employees at the Oregon Department of Human Services lack the resources necessary to do their jobs and feel overworked, underpaid and stressed out, according to survey results released by state auditors on Wednesday.”

KTVZ – Audit: DHS workers feel overworked, stressed, underpaid

Read the story here.

“Workers at the Oregon Department of Human Services are largely proud of the work the agency does, but significant numbers of workers feel overworked, stressed, underpaid and under-supported in their jobs, according to an audit released Wednesday by the Secretary of State’s office.”

OPB –Oregon DHS Workers Are Stressed Out, But Proud Of Their Work

Read the story here.

“Working for Oregon’s Department of Human Services is stressful. That’s one of the findings of an agency-wide survey released Wednesday by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office. DHS runs programs that serve people with disabilities, senior citizens, low-income families and children in foster care.”

Portland Tribune – Audit: Some ‘problem spots’ remain at DOGAMI

Read the story here.

“Since its financial woes came under scrutiny in early 2015, the state’s geology department has improved its financial controls, according to a state audit report released Wednesday. But the Secretary of State’s Office recommended the Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, often referred to as DOGAMI, continue to update how it reports and records federal money.”

OPB – Audit: Oregon Agency Engaged In ‘Inappropriate Grant Management’

Read the story here.

“A new state audit says the Oregon agency that monitors natural hazards has engaged in some questionable fiscal practices. The report says the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries is also taking steps to correct the problem.”

Audits in the News Featured