Health officials tightening security of drug database after 3,300 Rx histories revealedby Dara Kam | June 19th, 2013
State officials are tightening security of the statewide prescription drug database after the names, prescription drug history and other personal information of 3,300 individuals were released to lawyers of six defendants in a prescription drug fraud sting in May.
Wednesday’s announcement by Department of Health officials regarding stricter security measures came on the same day the state attorney who released the records revealed new details about how an investigation into a drug trafficking ring netted so many names of people apparently unrelated to the sting.
The changes to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, backed by prosecutors, are still in the works. The Health Department will hold a workshop on the proposed rules on July 8 to “identify any existing gaps” related to what happens to the records once they are mined from the database and “to establish accountability standards for users of PDMP information,” according to a press release issued by DOH today.
“The PDMP works daily to save the lives of those with prescription narcotic addiction and privacy is job one,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “That’s why today the Department is taking steps forward to put additional safeguards in place to prevent any unauthorized use of information that is intended to save lives. Moreover, I want to thank the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association for adopting procedures that provide further safeguards on how information from the program is used in court proceedings.”
The proposed changes won’t fix the problem, according to Michael Lambert, the Daytona Beach lawyer whose name was among the thousands on the list. It’s already a crime to knowingly and willfully wrongly distribute the information according to state law.
Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney R.J. Larizza gave the list of names to five of six attorneys for defendants accused of prescription drug fraud. Lambert is suing Larizza and asking a judge to block the law, which Lambert says is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy and unconstitutionally violates protections against government searches and seizures.
Stricter rules about who can look at the data once it’s been retrieved won’t help, Lambert said. Larizza should have redacted the names of the individuals on the list who were not accused of crimes, he said.
“I wasn’t participating in fraud and neither were these other thousands of people. So what right do they they have to get my information out there?”