The Big Drug Database in the Sky

In Pyle’s case, there was no evidence to suggest he had anything to do with the morphine theft that sparked the investigation. While looking through his prescription history, however, the detective felt that something wasn’t right. Pyle had been prescribed short-acting and long-acting opiate-based painkillers for years after being diagnosed with an inoperable mid-back disc herniation from a dirt-bike accident…

Cases involving these drug databases are taking place around the country, though perhaps the most watched one is Wessler’s case in Oregon. It’s not against local police; he’s taking on the feds…

The fifth plaintiff, Dr. James Roe, is an internist treating geriatric and hospice patients. His line of work necessitates prescribing more drugs monitored by the state than a typical physician. He is concerned about his patients’ records being accessed without a warrant, and he has told the court that his prescribing practices have already changed as a result of this…

PDMP’s records are ‘more inherently personal or private than bank records,’ and are entitled to and treated with a heightened expectation of privacy,” the judge wrote.

Secondly, he noted that neither doctors nor patients voluntarily give up this information—it’s required by state law. “The only way to avoid submission of prescription information to the PDMP is to forgo medical treatment or to leave the state. This is not a meaningful choice.”

The judge went on to say that patients don’t have an absolute right to privacy in their prescription medications, because they should expect them to be accessed by pharmacists, physicians, and other medical personnel. However, it is “more than reasonable for patients to believe that law enforcement agencies will not have unfettered access to their records.”

On February 11, 2014, the judge ruled that the DEA’s use of administrative subpoenas to obtain prescription drug records violates the Fourth Amendment…

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