Don’t laugh. Maybe that’s next week’s news. And if it’s happening in Vermont, it very well may be happening in your neck of the woods as well.
This latest widespread abuse of confidential medical drug records is IN ADDITION to a story first broken at Green Mountain Daily a few months back and I discussed here – and the invasion continues! – that Vermont State Police, apparently bored (not enough one-day-expired emissions stickers they can ticket?), are going to pharmacies and demanding records on anyone taking painkillers along with antidepressants, etc.
And yet Vermont (ha!) is called the People’s Socialist Republic of the U.S.:
Lawmakers Tuesday complained that a new electronic database of prescription drug records goes too far into the private lives of Vermonters. Members of the House Human Services Committee, who worked on the plan creating the state-run database of all prescribed drugs in Vermont, said the program now appears to have powers beyond what they envisioned when they passed it two years ago.
Committee members said the proposed policies of the Vermont Prescription Drug Monitoring Program would allow the state to collect too much information on people prescribed medication and share it with too many other state government employees.Bowing to privacy concerns, the bill passed in 2006 called for the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health “personally” to share that prescription drug data to the commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety “personally.”
But the proposed rules for the law €“ the policies created and carried out by the state based on legislation passed by lawmakers €“ would now allow lower-level officials within the two departments to give and receive the sensitive information.
“I can’t remotely think that anyone could construe from the word ‘personally’ that we meant designees,” said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, who added that the changes had her “beyond stunned.” “We had lots of discussions about this here in the committee.”
The Vermont Legislature passed the drug-monitoring system two years ago to help stop the illegal use of prescription drugs, which is now the top source of fatal drug overdoses in the state. The system will be maintained by the Vermont Department of Health and information from it can be used by law enforcement officials for investigations into specific alleged crimes.
In at least three cases (and this isn’t a case with a warrant for a specific person’s records, but just wholesale “give us all you got on anyone” situation), they’ve gotten it, too, with these being only the cases we KNOW about. Many pharmacies, of course, would never admit to providing this information because this would be a pharmacy that would (guaranteed) lose customers.
But the Vermont Congress can’t skate here; anyone who agrees to the establishment of such a database DAMN WELL KNOWS it will be abused far worse than what individuals might do with those meds.