Is There a Federal Database of Prescription Drug Users?
April 19, 2007 7:27 AM   Subscribe

ParanoiaFilter: Is there a federal database listing every prescription drug each person in the US has been prescribed or has purchased? ABC News seems to think so.

According to this article on ABC News, the federal government maintains a database of our prescription drug use.
Some news accounts have suggested that Cho had a history of antidepressant use, but senior federal officials tell ABC News that they can find no record of such medication in the government's files. This does not completely rule out prescription drug use, including samples from a physician, drugs obtained through illegal Internet sources, or a gap in the federal database, but the sources say theirs is a reasonably complete search.
Does such a federal database exist? A quick internet search reveals some states proposing some kind of state wide database for the purpose of monitoring prescription abuse, but I had never heard of a federal database before now?

I've never taken a prescription drug, so I don't know what paperwork comes with it. When you buy a prescription drug, does it come with some disclaimer that your name is added to a federal list, or that your purchase of drugs will be monitored? What do you get by way of disclosure of this? Are doctors aware of this? Drug companies?
posted by Pastabagel to Law & Government (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
At least for controlled substances, the Feds may not have their own database, but they somehow have the information. I've seen docs get warnings from the DOJ when they prescribe vicodin to patients who've been doing drug seeking through a bunch of ERs. The DOJ notice comes with a printout of all the prescriptions, dates, dosages, etc. (Could be that this is from Medicaid/Medicare data, I guess.)
posted by gramcracker at 7:36 AM on April 19, 2007

NASPER - Link here to a FAQ. 33 states are members, 15 moving to join.

via BoingBoing
posted by unixrat at 7:39 AM on April 19, 2007

Thanks, unixrat, but after reading that law, particularly (f)(1)(g):
any local, State, or Federal law enforcement, narcotics control, licensure, disciplinary, or program authority, who certifies, under the procedures determined by the State, that the requested information is related to an individual investigation or proceeding involving the unlawful diversion or misuse of a schedule II, III, or IV substance, and such information will further the purpose of the investigation or assist in the proceeding
the VT shooting case would not be sufficient justification to run a search, because it's not a drug misuse or diversion case. So what gives?
posted by Pastabagel at 7:52 AM on April 19, 2007

the VT shooting case would not be sufficient justification to run a search, because it's not a drug misuse or diversion case. So what gives?

That's what BoingBoing was wondering too.

IIRC, that comment by the Feds was made on the morning after or evening of the shooting. Since we're talking ParanoiaFilter here, I'll just guess that as soon as the shooter was identified all the stops were pulled and he was thoroughly backgrounded by the Feds. Since they have this database at their disposal, I cannot imagine them not using it.

Someone then blabbed to ABC that nothing was found.

All conjecture, natch.
posted by unixrat at 7:59 AM on April 19, 2007

the VT shooting case would not be sufficient justification to run a search, because it's not a drug misuse or diversion case. So what gives?

Kinda hard to say, isn't it?

Keep in mind that the charges don't have to be for misuse/diversion... the case just has to INVOLVE misuse or diversion... so if there were a murder investigation, and the investigators believed that the suspect committed the murder because of misuse (or in order to get drugs or anything else like that), that provision would allow them access to the database.

It's impossible for any of us to say what course the FBI's investigation has taken and what motives they've considered and ruled out.
posted by toomuchpete at 8:40 AM on April 19, 2007

The Federal Prescription Database Law.
posted by ericb at 8:42 AM on April 19, 2007

Most psychiatric drugs are not considered "controlled substances," so they wouldn't meet that part of the definition, either.

I think the feds/ABC news are incorrect that this database would have anything to do with the V Tech case.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:58 AM on April 19, 2007

Glenn Greenwald also picked up on this.
posted by odinsdream at 9:10 AM on April 19, 2007

This has been an illuminating thread, deserving of its own FPP. I have nothing to add, but have learned much -- thanks for asking about it here.
posted by parilous at 10:49 AM on April 19, 2007

Could they mean the files they have collected as part of this investigation? I mean, I have files on current projects as well as past documentation, and a "case file" is often referred to in cases like this.
posted by mikeh at 11:16 AM on April 19, 2007

FYI, TalkLeft blogged it back in 2005 when the bill was signed into law, and discussed it again (with a link to Greenwald) yesterday.
posted by mediareport at 8:39 PM on April 19, 2007

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