Legislation moving through the Pennsylvania Senate would allow prosecutors to rifle through prescription drug records as easily as police can search a student's locker.
The proposal, Senate Bill 1180, would create an expanded prescription drug monitoring program and increase access for pharmacists and health-care practitioners who prescribe medication.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania doesn't like it.
The biggest issue, the ACLU said, is that the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee amended the bill to allow prosecutors to seize the prescription drug records under the standard of reasonable suspicion — the same threshold that must be met to conduct searches in public schools or prisons, where residents have a lower expectation of privacy.
"One would reasonably believe that Pennsylvanians have a heightened expectation of privacy in their medication records," Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said in a statement. "This Senate committee clearly thinks otherwise. This vote implies that there are no barriers to the government collecting and observing a person's prescription data, which is a window into their medical history."
Originally, the bill required investigators to have a court-issued search warrant with the higher standard of probable cause for some — not all — records.
State Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland, did not return messages seeking comment, but a co-sponsorship memo indicates she introduced the bill to curb the practice of "doctor shopping," in which patients obtain drugs from multiple doctors unaware of other prescriptions.
Doctors could see such information in advance while pharmacists could identify fraudulent prescriptions before they're dispensed.