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C&C Magazine

Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program v. DEA

Compassion & Choices and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are jointly representing the ACLU of Oregon, four patients, and a doctor in a landmark case seeking to protect private prescription records from warrantless searches by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The Oregon Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) tracks certain prescription drugs dispensed by Oregon pharmacies. The information tracked by the PDMP includes highly sensitive information that often reveals the underlying diagnosis of the patient taking the medication.

When created by the Oregon Legislature in 2009, the PDMP’s purpose was to improve patient care. This mission was reflected in part by the explicit requirement that law enforcement obtain a warrant before requesting records of the prescription drugs dispensed by Oregon pharmacies. However, the DEA asserts that federal statute allows them to access those records without obtaining a warrant from a judge.

In February 2014, a federal judge ruled for the first time that patients have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their drug prescription records and required the DEA to obtain a warrant before requesting this information in the future. The DEA has appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which currently is receiving briefs in the case.

We will continue to fight for the principle that medical privacy is an important aspect of the doctor-patient relationship and a necessary prerequisite to the best standard of care. Patients must be free to have frank, honest, conversations with their doctors and so they can pursue appropriate treatment without fear of the government intruding without justification into their private medical decisions.

UPDATE: The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is currently scheduled to hear oral arguments in this case in November 2016 in Portland, OR. Compassion & Choices is committed to defending your medical privacy and the importance of the doctor-patient relationship at the end of life, in particular.