Minnesota to start database of people taking painkillers
posted at 3:35 pm on January 6, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Good news here in Minnesota — the state will now know when any of us get prescribed Vicodin, Oxycontin, or any other potentially addictive medicines. Minnesota will require pharmacies to report every customer who fills such a prescription to the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program, starting next Monday. The state says this will allow doctors to know whether their patients are abusing prescription medication by seeing more than one doctor, but they won’t be the only ones:
Starting this week, Minnesota residents who fill prescriptions for addictive drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin are going into a new state database.
The aim is to stop drug abusers and dealers from shopping around for prescriptions.
Pharmacies were required to start reporting to the Minnesota Prescription Monitoring Program on Monday. By March, doctors, dentists and pharmacists can use the system to identify patients who get too many habit-forming medicines.
So the state will have a list of everyone who has prescribed painkillers. What could possibly go wrong? Well, just practically speaking, it’s liable to result in a lot of false positives, as many people share the same or similar names. What happens when Carl Johnson, needs Vicodin for a back injury and gets confused with another Carl Johnson at the same pharmacy, or a Karl Johnson, or a Carl Johnsen? People with legitimate need of painkillers who have never abused will have to fight through red tape to get the medicine they need.
Of course, there are other concerns as well. The control of such substances belongs to pharmacies, but the prescription process is a private transaction. Why should the state involve itself in that transaction at all? Some people will abuse, but they comprise a tiny fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people who take medicine responsibly. This penalizes everyone, and invades the privacy of law-abiding citizens, in a nanny-state attempt to protect a few people from themselves.
It’s not hard to imagine where this might lead. After all, when the state has access to personal information, it rarely misses a chance to use it. The next time a traffic fatality occurs because the driver was on pain meds — legally or not — demand will arise for the state to do something to prevent the next death. It won’t take much to marry this database to the DMV, and for the state to start asking questions about licensing people on pain meds. In fact, some here in Minnesota may see that as a feature instead of a bug.
People have a responsibility to themselves for their actions regarding pain medications. A free people do not need the state to start keeping Big Brother prescription databases on their citizens, invading the most personal aspects of our lives while telling us it’s for our own good. A free person can make that determination on their own. This is a bad idea — and a taste of what to expect when government gains more and more control over the health care system.