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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Should the Sheriff Know Your Medical History?

Sheriffs in North Carolina want access to computer records of anyone with prescriptions for powerful painkillers and other controlled drugs. This is an effort by law enforcement to stem prescription drug abuse.

I am not sure how the North Carolina system works, but here in Tennessee, the board of pharmacy has a website where we as physicians can gather this information. If I have a patient's name and date of birth, I can look back at the pharmacy records over the past 2 years and obtain prescriptions for any controlled drugs.

I frequently use this database as doctor shopping and prescription drug abuse is an alarmingly common event. Many drug seekers who show up here are quite surprised when I present them with a printout of their month's supply of narcotics (filled just 2 weeks ago) and they are wanting more. I don't mind telling them "NO" and I tell many of them that doctor shopping is a crime and I won't mind calling the police if I see them again. This usually does the trick.

On the other hand, I am not sure if it is a good idea for sheriffs to have unrestricted access to this information. People take controlled drugs for a variety of LEGITIMATE reasons. My concern is that sheriffs may not always know the difference. I'd feel a lot better about things if the sheriffs worked with doctors and pharmacists to find solutions.


  1. As a person who occasionally takes prescription pain killers I don't want any government official to know any part of my medical history. Who knows what forms of official abuse this will lead to.

  2. I agree, Findalis. Although I am much against doctor shopping, the people who can access your information should be very limited.