Prescription Abuse Database Ready to Roll

September 17 2007, 2:35 PM

"Doctor-shopping" to get prescription drugs from multiple physicians is going to get a lot harder in Colorado. In 2005, the state legislature passed a law requiring pharmacists to submit prescription information for controlled substances to a database.

A computerized database called the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program will allow physicians to look up drugs their patients have been prescribed to see if they have visited different doctors to obtain a surplus of painkillers.

Federal funding for the database was obtained in 2006. Pharmacists began submitting the information a few months ago, and the database will be available for physicians to access around December or January, after six months of data is available. Prescription pain-killer abuse is the concern here. The D.E.A. says it's on the rise, and in Colorado, the two most-abused drugs are Vicodin and Darvocet. As to the relationship between law-enforcment and the program:

The statute does not say doctors or pharmacists are to call the police if a patient is doctor shopping, but they can use the information to intervene and start a course of treatment for the patient, Anderson said. Law enforcement may gain access to the database by court order or subpoena in the course of an investigation.

I take that to mean police and the DEA won't routinely be monitoring the database but instead will have access to it via subpoena or court order for a specific investigation they are already conducting. I hope I'm right. The thought of our private medical records becoming available to law enforcement without any individualized probable cause or reasonable suspicion a crime is occurring is constitutionally troubling and personally disconcerting.

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