Release of Florida prescription drug database records raises privacy concerns

June 14, 2013 

Criticism is mounting over Florida's fledgling prescription drug database since the medication history for 3,300 people was released as part of a prescription fraud investigation in Volusia County.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported this month that the records were given to federal and state agencies as part of this investigation, and eventually fell in the hands of five defense attorneys connected to the case. One man whose records were among those released has filed suit and is trying to keep the 3,300 records private.

The drug monitoring database launched in 2011 and is intended to combat abuse by monitoring how often doctors and individuals are turning in prescriptions for pain killers, anxiety medication and other commonly abused prescription drugs.

Friday, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, fired off a letter to Surgeon General John Armstrong demanding answers about the Volusia case.

"While I acknowledge that Florida law permits the release of records involved in an active investigation, I am concerned about this release of private health records and the precedent that it may establish," Brandes wrote. "Therefore I ask the Department to also provide to the Legislature any plans or policies that ensure such a release of private records does not happen without proper cause and without attention to preserving the privacy rights of patients."

The man who filed the initial suit to stop the records from being released has asked Gov. Rick Scott to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Volusia's state attorney and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the News-Journal reported.

"This is an active case before the Court. The Court will determine if the investigation was handled appropriately," Scott spokesman John Tupp wrote in an email response to the paper.

Earlier this week, the ACLU filed a public records request in hopes of determining who gave the 3,300 records to defense attorneys and why.

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