Saying that police officers should not be able to search through patients’ “electronic medicine cabinets” without a search warrant, Utah state Senator Todd Weiler is calling for law enforcement to obtain a search warrant before looking up someone’s records in the 19-year-old Utah Controlled Substance Database Program, the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP).
Weiler said that physicians and pharmacists should check the database, but that law enforcement has abused it. “We’ve had a problem in Utah, because law enforcement can go to the database, put in a case number and check anybody they want,” Weiler told ADAW. “One cop in Salt Lake City checked the database for almost 500 firefighters, because some morphine that was in an ambulance went missing,” he said. “This was just a fishing expedition.” One firefighter, said Weiler, was arrested in front of his wife and teenage daughter based on the database search — but he had prescriptions for all of his medications, and all of his doctors knew about each other. “He had to spend $3,000 on a lawyer,” he said. “It was like a nightmare from a Communist country.”
In another case, a police officer who was addicted to opioids “would look up to see who had just filled a prescription, and would go to that person’s home and steal it,” said Senator Weiler. “These are the two examples I’m using, but I expect I could find a lot more.”
The only solution is for law enforcement to be required to obtain a search warrant before going into the database, said Senator Weiler. Otherwise, they are violating the 4th Amendment rights of citizens to be free from unlawful searches.
“The law enforcement community is fighting back,” he said. “But I’m not going to apologize for the 4th Amendment being inconvenient.”
Senator Weiler supports pharmacists and physicians checking the database to make sure patients aren’t doctor-shopping to obtain addictive medications.
For the bill, go to http://le.utah.gov/~2015/bills/static/SB0119.html.