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Privacy Problems at the Pharmacy

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.

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6 comments

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6:22PM PDT on Apr 21, 2009

Since losing my older sister, Tammy Marie Boyet-Sawyer, in January 2009 to an accidental multi-drug intoxication (prescription narcotic & antidepressant) overdose, I have felt compelled to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to save someone elses sister or family member from their deadly prescription drug addiction.

There is so much to do. I need your help.

I have created "Project My Sister's Keeper-The Tammy Boyet Sawyer Initiative" to use as a tool to educate, support, and promote the legislative changes necessary to End The Deadly Prescription Addiction Epidemic that is plaguing the State of Missouri and our Nation.

If you are at all with familiar with addiction and addiction recovery, you have no doubt heard the term "rock bottom". Families of addicts who are desperate to save their loved one are commonly told for an addict to want to get treatment THEY MUST REACH "ROCK BOTTOM".

For an addict, their rock bottom is usually the place where the seriousness of their situation is finally realized. It is the place where and time that they are no longer able to live in denial of the situation.

Well, I ask each of you then, where's our "ROCK BOTTOM?

When do we as citizens and leaders of the U.S. stand up in a unified voice and say that WE WILL NO LONGER ENABLE PRESCRIPTION ADDICTION by our inaction.

How many more lives are we willing to lose to accidental prescription drug overdose? How many more victims will we allow to be forever changed by the destruction that is a

10:34PM PST on Feb 8, 2009

It is illegal for your pharmacy to sell your prescription information to pharmaceutical companies. Prescription information with your name on it is Protected Health Information (PHI). PHI is information that can only be used for treatment (such as consulting with the prescriber of your prescription), payment (such as contacting your insurance company to get your insurance ID number), or operations (normal functions the pharmacist/pharmacy perform). Selling your PHI for marketing purposes does not qualify!

8:55AM PST on Feb 6, 2009

wow, i totally didn't know this! Thank you for bringing it to my attention....

12:24AM PST on Feb 6, 2009

Thank you for the information. My medical information is not public and should not be sold.

3:45PM PST on Feb 5, 2009

This information about the HIPAA loophole is deeply disturbing, thank you for bringing this to light!

1:39PM PST on Feb 5, 2009

I didn't know it's handled that way over in the US. An strange idea to me - here in Germany, I was never asked for my ID at a pharmacy, no matter whether I buy over-the-counter or prescription stuff.

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