Warrantless Prescription Access (H 7518, S 2713)DIED
Category: 2016 Medical Privacy
In April, the House committee on Health, Education and Welfare approved dangerous legislation (H 7518) granting law enforcement access to the prescription information of thousands of Rhode Islanders without a warrant; the Senate Judiciary committee followed (S 2713) in May. Presently, access to the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PMP) is severely limited, and law enforcement must have a warrant before viewing prescription information. That's because the PMP contains personally-identifiable prescription information for every scheduled medication doled out in the state, including painkillers, anti-seizure medication, mood stabilizers, diet pills, and sleep aids. The PMP's purpose is to facilitate patient care and help doctors recognize addictive behavior in their patients, not to serve as a law enforcement database. In March, the ACLU testified before House HEW and the Senate Judiciary committee that this legislation allowed nothing less than data-mining, undermining efforts to view the opioid crisis as a medical problem and leaving doctors and chronic pain sufferers particularly subject to suspicion and investigation solely because of out-of-context prescription records. Following continued advocacy by the ACLU, along with members of the medical community including the Rhode Island Medical Society, the bill was sent back to committee in the House and never received a Senate floor vote; as such, the legislation died.