Do you take Ambien to get to sleep? Has your doctor prescribed Percocet to diminish the pain from that knee replacement? Is your dog on prescription painkillers?
If so, your name, address, birth date, medication, dosage, and other information could soon be part of a database of those who have written, filled, or gotten prescriptions for certain regulated drugs.
State lawmakers are poised to vote today on amendments to House Bill 1694, which would create the database, known as the Pharmaceutical Accountability Monitoring System, or PAMS. The House expects to cast final votes on the bill itself by next week.
The bill is aimed at cutting prescription drug addiction by tracking who is prescribing, dispensing and getting the drugs.
It is sponsored by state Rep. Matthew E. Baker, R-Tioga County, and is supported by state Rep. Doyle Heffley, R-Carbon County, and 19 other lawmakers.
"The prescription drug problem has been described by the Office of Drug Control Policy as 'our country's fastest growing drug problem.' According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2007, there were four times as many prescription drug overdose deaths as heroin overdose deaths and twice as many as cocaine overdose deaths. We need to get this important, life-saving tool in place. Prescription monitoring programs serve multiple functions law enforcement, prevention and intervention. They improve patient care and prescribing practices, help uncover drug diversion, identify 'doctor shopping' and will provide training of health care professionals in prevention, identification of drug problems and referral when appropriate," Baker wrote in a Sept. 3 memo to legislators asking their support.
PAMS would require pharmacists and anyone else licensed to dispense drugs in Pennsylvania to submit detailed information of anyone who presents a prescription for drugs that fall under the federal Controlled Substance Act. Those drugs include zolpidem (Ambien); Percocet, Oxycodone, Adderall and numerous other medications.
It exempts pharmacists who fill prescriptions for hospice, long-term care or inpatient hospitals.
PAMS would be accessible to federal and state law enforcement authorities investigating drug cases. Those who are licensed to dispense prescription medication doctors, pharmacists, dentists, and even veterinarians could also search the database for information. For example, a practitioner may search the database for an existing patient, or for the prescriptions written using his/her own Drug Enforcement Agency registration number.
Anyone caught illegally obtaining information from the database, or leaking the information, would be charged with a felony.
Failing to submit the information to PAMS could cost a pharmacist or other dispenser his or her license and be fined $1,000 for each incidence.
Twenty-two members of the House Human Services Committee on Sept. 23 voted in favor of the bill. Two, Rep. Mark Painter, D-Montgomery County, and Rep. Brad Roae, R-Crawford County, voted against the measure.
After the full House votes on the proposal, it goes to the Senate. If it passes there, the bill would go to Gov. Tom Corbett to sign into law.
The proposed legislation has roused the concern of the American Civil Liberties Union, which in a Sept. 30 press release raised concerns about medical privacy.
The bill, according to an ACLU press release issued hours after the Human Services Committee vote, is "woefully inadequate" in protecting sensitive medical records.
"While there are legitimate public health concerns about prescription drug abuse, this bill goes too far in sacrificing the privacy rights of millions of Pennsylvanians," Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania said in the release. "The privacy of the child who breaks his arm on his bike or who takes attention deficit medication is being sacrificed because someone across town is abusing these substances."
Drug databases are fast becoming a popular tool for authorities to track controlled substances.
In July, Corbett signed into law an amendment of the state's Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act that linked the state to the National Precursor Log Exchange system (NPLEx), a real-time electronic tracking system that monitors sales of the drug and allows authorities to immediately halt sales to anyone who exceeds the daily 3.6 gram, and 9 grams in 30 days, limit on pseudoephedrine purchases.