|Rep. Michelle Brownlee
195th Legislative District
Brownlee, Kinsey urge retooling of prescription-drug monitoring bill
HARRISBURG, Feb. 13 – Legislation which would create a state database to monitor prescription-drug users passed the House Human Services committee Tuesday, despite protests from state Reps. Michelle Brownlee and Stephen Kinsey that the bill (H.B. 317) may be unconstitutional and violate patient-doctor confidentiality rules.
“The spirit of House Bill 317 is commendable, but there are serious legal concerns in creating a database of prescription-drug patients and their histories that we felt needed to be worked out before the bill went to the House for consideration,” said Brownlee, who is the Human Services Committee’s subcommittee Democratic chairwoman on drugs and alcohol.
“At the very least, H.B. 317 is in dire need of amending to ensure that patient-doctor privacy rights aren’t violated,” Brownlee said. “I understand the need to fight prescription-drug abuse across all our communities, but this bill has a long way to go before we can be sure it doesn’t violate patients’ rights first.”
“With the bill moved out of committee, we can only hope that our colleagues at large will recognize the bill’s shortcomings and thoroughly amend it or vote it back to committee,” said Kinsey, D-Phila. “Until that takes place, H.B. 317 leads to dangerous unintended consequences such as warrantless use and prosecutorial abuses by law enforcement agencies.
“That we are seeking ways to intervene with the growing problems of accidental death and abuse associated with prescription drugs is admirable, however, we need to make sure that we are not violating the constitutional rights of Pennsylvanians. I trust our colleagues will come to similar conclusions on H.B. 317,” he added.
According to the bill’s sponsor, Gene DiGirolamo, R-Bucks, the intent of the bill is to pinpoint the potential for abuse and misuse of prescription drugs, namely those that are highly addictive controlled substances such as pain relievers.
The database would be managed by the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.