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The Battle Over Oregon's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Creative Commons

This Wednesday, a U.S. District Court Judge will hear arguments in a suit brought by the state of Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).  The case centers on Oregon’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), which was created by the Oregon legislature in 2009 and maintains a record of patients’ prescriptions for medications that pose a risk for abuse or other harmful effects. Some of the medications monitored in the database include synthetic opioids used in pain management, benzodiazepines for the treatment of anxiety and panic disorders, as well as the hormone testosterone taken by many transgender men.

In January of 2012, the DEA attempted to subpoena records from Oregon’s PDMP as part of an agency investigation. Because Oregon’s law requires law enforcement to issue a warrant in order to obtain records from the program, the state denied the DEA access. Subsequently, a U.S. Circuit Court Magistrate found that federal law trumped state law in this case and ordered the state to turn over the records.  Following several additional DEA subpoenas for records, the state of Oregon — along with the ACLU — filed a suit in U.S. District Court. They contend that without a warrant from the DEA, turning over these personal records would violate not just state law, but also privacy protections guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

Are you concerned about the privacy of prescription records? Should law enforcement have access to prescription records without a warrant?

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