Privacy Problems at the Pharmacy
I love pharmacies. There’s always a sweet old pharmacist who inquires about my family and eagerly answers all my questions. While he prepares my order, I linger at the soda fountain, sipping an ice cream soda through a long straw and chatting with my fellow customers as we wait. Or maybe that’s just an image conjured from those old black and white movies I love so much.
In today’s reality, we can’t so much as purchase over-the-counter sinus medicine without producing a government issued ID and signing on the dotted line. Why is the clerk looking at me like that? I know I don’t look exactly like my driver’s license photo, but I AM sick after all.
Hard to believe, but this modern-day annoyance is actually the result of the Patriot Act. All drug products that contain the ingredient pseudoephedrine (an ingredient used in making methamphetamine) must be kept behind the drug store counter and must be sold in limited quantities to consumers after they show identification and sign a logbook. The store must keep a record of your purchase for at least two years.
I’m not a fan of the making, selling, or use of illegal drugs. It’s definitely a curse on our society. Still, I’m annoyed at the intrusion of big brother into my simple purchase of cold medicine. Guess the days of a fully-stocked medicine cabinet are over.
The argument against government-issued ID as it relates to elections and voter fraud is that the policy unfairly discriminates against the poor, who often have no driver’s license and can’t pay the fee to get a government ID. Wouldn’t the same hold true for people who just want cold medication? No ID–no medicine. Seems harsh to me.
To make us feel even more alienated from our pharmacies, there’s a loophole in HIPAA regulations that allows drug stores to sell their patient prescription information to pharmaceutical companies. Naturally, big pharma is using that information to hard target their sales pitches directly to the consumer–by mail and by phone.
That explains why I’ve been receiving information and coupons for prescription medication in the mail. Not for the prescription medication that I currently use, mind you, but for a competing brand. So now we are not only bombarded by pharmaceutical ads on television, but we can be solicited directly, thanks to our local pharmacies and a legal loophole.
Most of us have little choice about the prescription drugs we need for what ails us. We should have a choice about who is privy to that information.
Privacy rights, eroding at an alarming rate, must be protected. At the very least, our medical information should remain ours to share.