The Costs of Monitoring Your Prescriptions


PREMO Member
The privacy cost of PDMPs is harder to measure but nevertheless undeniable. New Hampshire is currently engaged in a legal battle with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, which asserts the authority to obtain PDMP information through administrative subpoenas rather than the probable-cause warrants required by state law.

Relying on the "third-party doctrine," the DEA argues that it does not need a warrant because examining PDMP records does not qualify as a search under the Fourth Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that no warrant is required to obtain information that people voluntarily share with third parties such as banks and phone companies.

But last year the Court declined to extend the third-party doctrine to cellphone location data, noting that such information is collected automatically and "provides an intimate window into a person's life." The American Civil Liberties Union, joined by the New Hampshire Medical Society, argues that the logic of that decision clearly applies to information about the medications people take.

The ACLU notes that patients do not in any meaningful sense consent to the collection of their prescription records. If they seek medical treatment and it involves a prescription drug covered by New Hampshire's PDMP law, that information is automatically added to the database, where it stays for three years.