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DES MOINES, IA (AP) - A plan by state pharmacy regulators to set up a computerized system to track prescriptions for certain drugs is under fire by some Iowa lawmakers who say it would be an invasion of privacy.
The Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners wants to track controlled substances in an effort to crack down on drug abuse and "doctor shopping." But lawmakers compare the system to "big brother," that could put patients' medical information in the wrong hands.
"Many citizens and legislators are rightfully concerned about protecting the confidentiality of their medical information and about the security of the proposed database itself," Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, said Tuesday.
In addition to prescription drugs, such as painkillers, the board would also track pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in methamphetamine. The state is now classifying pseudoephedrine, which is found in many cold and allergy medicines, as a controlled substance.
Lloyd Jessen, the board's executive director, said they hope to have the database running by March 2007.
He said the system would keep prescription drug addicts from "doctor shopping" or "pharmacy shopping," by giving doctors and pharmacists access to the data when they are serving a patient.
The federal government has already awarded the pharmacy board a $642,000 grant to establish the database. But it was never approved by the Iowa Legislature, and the board's decision to move ahead anyway irked some lawmakers.
A measure to establish the database passed the House earlier this year, but it was never considered by the Senate.
Rep. George Eichhorn, R-Stratford, voted for the measure to take action in the fight against meth. On Tuesday, he complained the database would collect information on law-abiding Iowans to catch a few.
"There's definitely some downsides, especially if you don't have the protections in there for confidentiality," Eichhorn said.
Eichhorn said a legislative committee will have the chance to put the database on hold until the full Iowa Legislature convenes in January. The full Legislature could chose to nullify the board's action.
Groups representing Iowa doctors came forward Tuesday to register their opposition to the plan for a database.
Frank Severino, a lobbyist for the Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association and the Polk County Medical Society, said both groups are "extremely opposed" to the plan.
Marty Ryan of the Iowa Civil Liberties Union raised concerns that law enforcement officials would have access to the data even if they hadn't obtained a search warrant or subpoena from a judge.