North Carolina Sheriff’s are asking for unfettered and unprecedented access to patient data in the name of prescription drug law enforcement. While this would certainly make life easier for sheriff’s and police officers looking for patterns in the illegal prescription drug trade, it is a disaster for medical privacy and individuals.
According to the News & Observer, the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association lobbied the state legislative health care committee to open access to the state collected data submitted by pharmacists.
There is no doubt that prescription drug abuse and trafficking is increasing nationwide, and is among the fastest growing drug charges in NC. Substances like Oxycontin and Vicodin (Hydrocodone), and other legal drugs that can be abused are popular and easy to get.
The state department of health and human services started collecting drug data from some doctors and pharmacies in 2007. It was an effort to monitor physicians who might be over-prescribing pain medications, and patients (and potential drug distributors) who might be “doctor shopping”, looking for different doctors to continuously write prescriptions for pain medications, either for personal use or for illegal drug sales.
But to suddenly grant widespread access to NC Sheriff’s looking for prescription drug trade would be a huge blow to medical privacy rights.
Anyone with chronic pain or medical problems could suddenly be a suspect, solely based on what should be confidential information between a doctor and patient. The government shouldn’t be able to give away that right to privacy.
(via Glenn Greenwald)