NJ lawmaker wants to give police access to prescription database



A New Jersey lawmaker wants to give law enforcement officers access to the state’s prescription drug monitoring database without a court order, in order to fight New Jersey’s opioid addiction epidemic.

State Sen. Robert Singer introduced the idea after a New Jersey doctor was arrested for allegedly writing false prescriptions and sending them to others who used them to get drugs to sell.

Dr. Craig Gialanella and others were arrested as part of the New Jersey attorney general’s investigation dubbed “Oxy Highway.” Law enforcement used the state’s drug database to take down this suspected drug ring.

“Keep in mind, we are at work now,” Singer says. “We’re seeing hundreds, in many cases young people, die in the state.”

Singer says that he wants law enforcement to be able to look at the database whenever they want, without a time consuming court order, so that they can bust more so-called “pill mills.”

“They should have access to the same information that doctors and pharmacists have. They’re not going to abuse it. It’s an ongoing investigation dealing with opiate abuse,” Singer says.

But many people, including Gov. Chris Christie, are opposed to the plan. Christie says that prosecutors should go through the courts.

Roseanne Scotti, of the Drug Policy Alliance, agrees with the governor.

“This violates people’s rights and it should not be allowed,” she says. “You’re basically allowing law enforcement to go on what are called ‘fishing expeditions,’ to look at people's private medical records in hopes of seeing something that looks like abuse.”

Pharmacies report information on prescriptions for controlled dangerous substances and human growth hormone. No other medications are put in the database.

Police could use the database to target physicians who illegally prescribe. But drug privacy advocates worry it could stigmatize patients who use the drugs legally.

“These are decisions that are between a doctor and a patient and their pharmacist,” Scotti says.

“We have to fight crime with every tool available,” Singer says.

New Jersey is one of 30 states that do not allow its database to be subject to Open Public Records laws, according to the National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws. All inquiries by law enforcement require a court order or subpoena.