Drug database bill passes

The Alaska House of Representatives voted 23-16 Wednesday to pass a senate bill creating a prescription drug database in Alaska despite objections that it could threaten the privacy rights and security of Alaskans.
The bill empowers the Alaska Board of Pharmacy to place in an electronic file information about every prescription dispensed in the state for certain medications controlled under state law (schedules IA through VA), including medicinal narcotics such as painkillers, stimulants, tranquilizers, sedatives and other drugs that the Legislature might add to the scheduled drug statutes.
The law would apply to patients receiving medications through a pharmacy, not inpatients in a licensed health care facility.
The bill is designed to curb misuse of prescription drugs in Alaska and to deter so-called “doctor hopping” by patients. It would not collect any data that is not already required by the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, supporters say.
It will include the date prescriptions were written and filled, how those patients paid the bill, along with their names, addresses and dates of birth, the drug code of the controlled substance, and the name of the pharmacy and pharmacist or practitioner dispensing the drugs.
That kind of information could be used to track prescribing practices and dispensing patterns, and to determine if practitioners are prescribing in an unlawful manner. It would also track individuals obtaining controlled substances with a frequency or in a manner beyond recognized standards for dosage „ exactly the kind of information needed to deter abuse of prescription drugs, sponsors have claimed.
If the system is hacked, however, that data could easily be misused, including alerting criminals to the location of the homes of patients holding prescription drugs, opponents have argued.
Supporters, such as Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, said he shared the concerns for privacy that opponents expressed during debate.
“I value personal privacy. I don’t know that there is a person in this room that does not,” he said. “However, I also value the safety and security of soccer moms and the rest of us as we enjoy and pursue the quiet enjoyment of our lives.”
He noted the information to go into the database already is collected in paper form by pharmacists. He said passing the bill would make communities safer by reducing the availability of illegal prescription drugs.
He also said Alaska was joining 40 other states with similar laws in place and following “best practices” on implementing the program.

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