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Politics & Government

Prescription Drug Database Could Expand In PA, But Who Can Use It?


Pennsylvania is not like its neighboring states – it monitors prescriptions most prone to abuse, but turns a blind eye to other categories of drugs.  But that might not be the case for long.  

The program is intended to prevent drug abuse by allowing prescribers and law enforcement to check for patterns in a patient’s prescription history.

A proposal to expand the dragnet in the commonwealth is on the legislative fast track, to the dismay of civil libertarians, who say it violates patient privacy, but recently it was amended to force law enforcement to get a search warrant before combing the database.

“I do not think that asking for law enforcement, when it comes to reviewing someone’s prescription history, to get a warrant, is that big of a hurdle,” said Rep. Dan Miller (D- Allegheny County) who added the amendment.

But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Matt Baker (R- Tioga County) says it just makes the job of narcotics officers more difficult.

“My goodness, I don’t know why we’d want to tie their hands. The CDC has ranked Pennsylvania the ninth-highest in prescription drug overdoses in the nation,” Baker said.

According to the Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs, 48 states and one territory have such programs -- and only a few require law enforcement to get a search warrant or court order before accessing them.

The Pennsylvania Medical Society, which has pushed for the expanded program, doesn’t have a problem with the search warrant requirement.