An argument against the prescription drug database

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SB 818, introduced by Senator MikeFasano (R-New Port Richey) is moving forward at last check. Last Thursday,SB 818 was heard in the Budget Committee, passed with a unanimous vote, and is now on the Second Reading Calendar. As always, when it comes to any bill introduced or argued by Sen. Fasano, the bill must be related to some ?ot topic?which has been in the news.

This time, the Fasano knee-jerk is all about the ?ill-mills?problem, and the bill seeks to be an effective tool in helping law enforcementclose down these establishments that sell painkillers and other harmful medications to drug addicts ?or drug dealers. However, besides laws aimed at tightening the regulation of pill mills, which is laudable, the bill also includes the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) database plan, which will keep of database of prescription drugs used by Florida residents and non-residents alike.

The PDMP database plan also includes the ability for the State of Florida to share database information with other states ?after the database has been operation for 12 months ?and to disclose information to the Attorney General and other groups. To me, this sounds like a legislative prescription for invasion of privacy, information leaks, and a slew of other related problems, which could have a detrimental effect on many more Floridians than the seven estimated to die each day in Florida from prescription drug abuse, which is a horrific number.

First, a prescription drug regimen is a fairly easy way to determine the personal heath issues suffered by anyone. For example, an individual? antiretroviral prescriptions are probably a fairly good indicator of and HIV infection. A monthly high-blood pressure medicine, or other regular prescription, is a pretty good way to determine your physical condition and future prospects for ?ood heath? The question of privacy has to be at the center of this debate, especially in Florida where our Constitution grants Floridians a higher privacy expectation than the U.S. Constitution.

So who will be able to access these private records? U.S. Representative Hal Rogers (KY-05), in his letter to Rick Scott in support of the PDMP, says it best when he wrote: ?n most instances, only medical licensing boards, law enforcement officers, Medicaid, grand juries with a subpoena, practitioners, pharmacists and judges and/or parole officers are granted access to patient information.?To me, this list is a frightening list, and a roadmap of what can happen in ?ost instances? I can see judges granting subpoenas in cases like divorce, personal injury, or child custody; and, it is not a stretch to imagine there is the ability for law enforcement officers to abuse the access to the database. Unfortunately, these are just a few problematic possible future invasions of privacy I can imagine.

And what about data security? Personal information has been leaked by nearly every corporate and government entity. From the Veterans Administration to your friendly bank, it does not take a Tom Cruise, suspended at the end of a zip line, to breach database security when you combine the ill-gotten effects of the lowest bidder and a state employee. Imagine what that information would be worth to big-pharma, which leads us to the next interesting point.

Will it cost the taxpayers? Perhaps at some point, but right now the prescription drug companies are offering funds to pay for the database ?Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, offered $1 million to help with costs, which begs the question: why would a pharmaceutical company want to spend $1 million to help track prescription drugs?

We should seriously consider what we want to remain private in our lives before we allow the government to make that decision for us. Remember, when you open a door in a wind storm, the winds gush in and it is very hard to close the door again. Your best bet is just to leave the door closed.

For additional reading:

Summary of various state laws on access to database information:

http://www.namsdl.org/documents/InterstateSharingofPMPInformation.pdf

 

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.