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The Florida Department of Health is weighing whether to tighten controls on the release of information through its prescription drug monitoring program after data for more than 3,000 Floridians reportedly was provided to third parties without the patients' consent.
A public hearing is set for Tuesday to discuss proposed changes to the Electronic Florida On-Line Registry of Controlled Substances Evaluation Program, according to a posting on the health department's website.
Those changes include verifying the credentials of state agency or law enforcement personnel that request prescription information from the state database, and prohibiting E-FORCSE information from being distributed to unauthorized people.
Any unauthorized transmission of prescription database information would have to be reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to the Florida Health Department's draft of its proposed rules.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida recommended privacy changes to the drug database program after prescription information for about 3,300 Floridians was released without their knowledge or consent, according to a June statement from the organization.
The ACLU also asked HHS to investigate the alleged information breach. In its complaint to HHS, the ACLU said it believes the prescription information data breach began in September 2011 and continues today.
The complaint says the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ran an investigation of Florida's prescription drug database in 2011 that sought information on an “alleged prescription drug trafficking in Central Florida.”
The investigation allegedly allowed the DEA to access information for thousands of patients, even though the DEA prosecuted only six people, according to the ACLU complaint. The prescription information for all 3,300 people was allegedly distributed on discs to five defense attorneys representing the defendants in the drug trafficking case.
“Thousands of Floridians have had personal information — including their names, their addresses, the medications they take, their dosages, the names of their physicians and the names of the pharmacies that dispensed the medication — distributed to people who never should have had them,” said Maria Kayanan, associate legal director for the Florida ACLU, in a June statement.
Michael Lambert, one of the patients in Florida's database, filed a complaint in Florida's 7th Circuit Court against R.J. Larizza, Florida's 7th Judicial Circuit state attorney, according to records posted online by the ACLU.
The complaint, filed in May, seeks an injunction that would require Florida to collect and seal all prescription history records for Mr. Lambert and other patients in the database, and asks the court to consider whether portions of the prescription database violate Florida's Constitution.