There are many truisms that I have learned on privacy matters. Two of those are the following: There is always money from the Federal Government to set up databases. The second, build a database and they will come. They being groups, special interests, and other parties who want to use the databases, and in many cases law enforcement.
Several years ago the Congress passed the National All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting Act which gave money to the states to set up databases for controlled drugs to be reported to state agencies. Minnesota got money to do that. The Legislature passed the law to set it up, but with major privacy protections.
The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy by law administers the database.
Two of the major privacy protections is that law enforcement can only get access to the database with a valid search warrant and that the data about a person’s prescriptions is held for a short period of time.
In my conversation with a Board of Pharmacy employee in December, 2010, I was told there were over a million people in the database with about 5 million prescriptions recorded.
Recently, at an advisory board meeting that helps the Board of Pharmacy oversee the electronic prescription program there was a presentation of law enforcements interests. Those interests were to lower the threshold for police access to the database to an administrative subpoena and two to extend the length of how long your prescription record should be retained.
There is discussion of having these various databases throughout the country be linked through an interstate compact law. There are also various standards and levels of privacy protection. Minnesota is one of the best for privacy protections.