The state Senate has approved SB 1180, which would create a pharmaceutical database aimed at stopping patients from “doctor shopping” for drugs.
While the measure cleared the upper house and will move on to the state House of Representatives, amendments to the bill did not appease all of its opponents.
The bill received two negative votes on the floor.
The next step, according to state Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland, the bill’s main sponsor, is to work out the details with state representatives.
Opponents of the database worry about prosecutors’ access to it, Vance said. She added that an amendment requiring prosecutors to get a court order before viewing the database should be enough to calm fears that a person’s history of taking prescription drugs, and with it their health history, would be protected.
But Andy Hoover, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said the standard needed to get a court order is so low it would amount to a “rubber stamp” from a judge.
“All they need is reasonable suspicion to convince a judge they should have access to the database,” Hoover said. “We believe that a person’s prescription drug history commands a much higher standard.”
The bill’s monitoring program would include Schedule II through V controlled substances.
Currently, the state attorney general oversees a monitoring program tasked with dispensing data for Schedule II controlled substances. Under SB 1180, a board would be created within the state Department of Health to establish and oversee an electronic data system listing all controlled substances that are prescribed and dispensed within Pennsylvania, according to a statement from Vance’s office. An advisory group, including dispensers, law enforcement, addiction specialists and privacy advocates, would assist the board with its duties. Patients could annually review their information at no cost and correct any errors. Data would be referred to the appropriate licensing board only in instances when there were a pattern of irregular data deviating from the clinical standard.