The government is looking out for you

By Rori Black

During the Cho investigation, mention was made of use of anti-depressants but that they could find no record of such medication in the government’s files.

Spittake now. Government’s files of… our prescription use?

As as of 2005, The National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act required “the Department of Health and Human Services to award grants to States to establish or improve programs to electronically monitor dispensing of controlled substances.” Equally troubling, this was passed by a in the house and senate so that, other than the 25 bipartisan cosponsors, our representatives can not be held accountable for their vote.

The bill requires those dispensing controlled substances to submit patients’ names, addresses and telephone numbers—to state governments within one week of filling prescriptions for “commonly prescribed medications for pain, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder and sleep disorders.” “Data also will be collected on animal owners whose pets are prescribed controlled substances by veterinarians.” The last to track k-holers?

At first blush, this might seem like a good idea, insuring that people (cough Rush cough) would be unable to doctor shop and get dangerous amounts of scheduled drugs.

However, this is an infringement on our right to privacy. Among those allowed to access the database are:

  • a practitioner (or the agent thereof) who certifies … that the requested information is for the purpose of providing medical or pharmaceutical treatment or evaluating the need for such treatment
  • any local, State, or Federal law enforcement, narcotics control, licensure, disciplinary, or program authority, who certifies … that the requested information is related to an individual investigation or proceeding involving the unlawful diversion or misuse of a schedule II, III, or IV substance
  • the controlled substance monitoring program of another State or group of States with whom the State has established an interoperability agreement;
  • any agent of the Department of Health and Human Services, a State medicaid program, a State health department, or the Drug Enforcement Administration … for research … related to a function committed to such department, program, or administration by law that is not investigative in nature
  • an agent of the State agency or entity of another State that is responsible for the establishment and maintenance of that State’s controlled substance monitoring program

Fifty one state databases that can be perused by local, state and federal agencies if they think you are improperly using scheduled drugs.

Opponents argue that there are problems inherent in the system:

[Potentially] decreases appropriate prescribing of opioids for the treatment of pain. A reduction in appropriate opioid prescribing leads to human suffering, exacerbation of medical conditions, reduced productivity, and diminished quality of life. There is a potential for ePMPs to reduce appropriate prescribing in two ways. First, there is the “chilling” effect of regulatory oversight. Second, there is the possibility that reports of acquisition of opioids from multiple sources will be viewed by practitioners as evidence of “addiction” when in fact it is “pseudoaddiction.”

Others view this as “a way to prop up the ever-failing war on drugs on the backs of doctors”.

This prescription drug monitoring program will simply allow the government to more easily intrude into the doctor/patient relationship and our right to privacy.

5 replies »

  1. I’ve railed against any sort of central medical database for years now, and this is another example. Consider the multiple potential abuses of this information:

    * That first bullet could conceivably be used for employment evaluations or job interviews. Really–it wouldn’t take more than a minute amount of bullshitting for some HR department to get access to those records. Think of how many companies have mandated fitness and health programs today, and then wonder how quickly you’d lose your job if someone found out you were on antidepressants.

    * The potential for identity theft and fraud is rampant. Any crooked HHS employee or contractor could access the data, sell it, and get it into the “underground economy” where it’s reused to buy expensive new drugs for meth production. Since these folks already have records, no one will question it, and the innocent will foot the bill.

    * And as you say, the invasion of our privacy is so terrible in this regard that Louis Brandeis wouldn’t just roll in his grave, he’d come shambling out of it like a wrathful zombie.


  2. Your first point was the one that scared me. Who’s to say that this DB won’t be used for security clearances for jobs, gun purchases, HR.

    Imagine an unscrupulous lawyer using social engineering to find out that you have been taking anti-psychotics … for restless leg syndrome… and using your “mental health issues” against you.

  3. Absolutely. I despise loyalty card programs for the same reason–that data is sold and resold to affiliates, third parties, and people so far removed from the source it’s a wonder they don’t just give it away.

    And then the information can be used in all manner of unsavory instances–“Why, Mr. Bosworth, we noticed in your buying purchases that you’ve been picking up several packages of Trojan condoms a month. You must be AN UNFIT FATHER! THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!!!!11111ONE”

    We are fast evolving into a society where data that is meaningless on its own is quickly recontextualized into being used as a portrait of you, one that never goes away or changes. All you are is your credit rating, your job record, and what you buy.

    And like the man said, I do not hold to that.

  4. Several weeks ago, I received a check in the mail as part of a settlement in a class-action lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company. I didn’t realize I’d been part of the lawsuit, and I couldn’t remember what I’d been taking the drug in question for. I think it was an anti-inflammatory I was taking for knee problems. But this episode made me realize that none of us have any secrets anymore.