New Castle News

Closer Look

October 3, 2013

State medical group concerned about drug bill

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Medical Society is threatening to pull its support for a proposed statewide prescription drug monitoring effort over an amendment that would automatically alert police every time a patient is ordered to take certain drugs.

The bill could violate federal patient privacy laws, said C. Richard Schott, a Delaware County cardiologist and president of the society.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania first raised the alarm about patient privacy in the drug monitoring database. Andrew Hoover, legislative director of the ACLU in Pennsylvania, said the organization agrees with the medical society.

Pennsylvania has an existing database that provides the Attorney General’s office with information about prescriptions for extremely addictive drugs. The proposed expansion would allow doctors to access the database and add other prescription drugs that are being increasingly abused. Proponents of the database say it’s needed to stem the tide of overdoses from prescription drug abuse by recreational users and addicts.

The medical society had been actively lobbying in favor of the database because it would make it easier for doctors to recognize “pill-shoppers,” people faking ailments to get drugs.

A new amendment would propose a computer-generated “automatic notification” provided to the Attorney General’s office, with sharing provisions to local district attorneys for irregular or illegal patterns of activity involving prescription drugs. This is not substantially different from the way the existing database works. But that database only includes extremely addictive drugs, such as cocaine and heroin and chemically-similar alternatives. The expanded program would add a host of drugs, including: steroids, anti-anxiety medication and some forms of cold medication.

The original expanded drug monitoring plan would have required a court order for police to access patient information, Schott said. That was weakened so police could get the information about an “active investigation.” Doctors were willing to accept that compromise, but the latest changes weaken the privacy protections even further.

Schott imagined the worst case scenario: An elderly patient in hospice receiving heavy doses of painkillers to cope with the end of life. He concedes it’s unlikely that police would intentionally want to bother a person who is receiving medication for legitimate need. But the weakened standards for police access create the danger that officers could unintentionally bother law-abiding patients.

Doctors also are concerned patients will stop seeking medical care if they fear police will receive notifications about what types of drugs they are being prescribed.

Schott said Pennsylvania needs drug monitoring, in part, because neighboring states have such monitoring programs.

“If you’re a burglar, you go to a gun-free zone, if you are drug-shopper, you go to where there is no drug monitoring,” Schott said.

But, he said, if the patient-privacy concerns are not dealt with, the medical society will not support the legislation.


Text Only | Photo Reprints
Closer Look
  • phone.jpg Attorney general warns of phone scams

    Assorted scams in the commonwealth have prompted a warning from the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said several scams have been reported to the Bureau of Consumer Protection in recent weeks.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • disability.jpg Disabilities group unveils new icon

    Disability Options Network is joining forces with the Accessible Icon Project. Officials of the community organization, located at 1929 E. Washington St., said its new icon will replace the current international symbol for accessibility.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • well.jpg Auditor: State doesn’t have enough inspectors to monitor wells

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.


    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • vote.jpg Independent hopefuls may widen gubernatorial field

    Just when Pennsylvania voters were getting used to the idea of a gubernatorial election showdown between Republican incumbent Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf, other hopefuls may soon be joining the fray.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • manna.jpg John K. Manna: Measuring the money

    Should we even bother to have an election in November? By some accounts, maybe the results of some contests are already in.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • shooting.jpg Man injured in city shooting

    A man was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital Thursday morning following a shooting on West Lincoln Avenue.


    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • police.jpg Police: Man pulls gun on construction workers

    Construction workers in Neshannock Township flagged down police Thursday claiming a business owner had pulled a gun on them.


    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting.jpg Shooting witness arrested for giving false name

    State police have arrested a second Detroit area man after questioning him about Sunday’s fatal shooting in Ellwood City. DeMarco Dorian Hoskins, 22, of Highland Park, Mich., was the third man in a private car that transported the deceased to look for a hospital. Hoskins allegedly gave police a false identity when they questioned him as witness.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • bridgerepair.jpg PennDOT seeks outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.


    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • GALLO_Natalie.jpg County native plays Clinton intern

    Natalie Gallo isn’t an intern, but she’s playing one on the New York stage.


    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content
Section Teases
Must Read
Continuous Super Bowl Coverage