Friday, November 7, 2014

Dangerous Databases? Security Risks and Public Health Benefits

Prop 46 was defeated in California on Tuesday by a 2-1 margin.  The proposition, among other things, required drug testing among doctors and lifted the caps for medical malpractice damages.  Prop 46 also would have required physicians to check the CURES database before prescribing or dispensing any schedule II-IV medication.

Predictably, the bill was unpopular among California physicians.  Disappointingly, the Prop 46 attack ads apparently devolved into scare tactics and silliness.  According to a WorkCompCentral article this morning, California voters heard things like the following, probably in the form of a voice over that made it sound dark and evil and conspiratorial:

"The vulnerable, government-run database is subject to being hacked, compromising the security of every Californian's personal prescription drug history" and "your personal prescription drug history could be made available for anyone to see."

Political ads are anathema to sound, rational policy debate.

Yes, there are risks associated with the existence of any public database (or private data, for that matter: see Home Depot, Target, etc.)  But no, those risks do not outweigh the obvious public health benefits of mandated PDMP use by prescribing physicians.

As I've written before, mandating that pharmacies report prescription drug data into the PDMP is a start.  Mandating that physicians register as users is a next step.  But mandating that doctors check the database before writing prescriptions that could be potentially dangerous to a patient or a community is the key to a successful PDMP program.  

Otherwise, it's just data sitting in a database.  

Apparently, plans are in the works to bring back this particular component of Prop 46 in front of the legislature.  Hopefully, this time around, the scare tactics will be drowned out by the voices of reason.

On Twitter @PRIUM1

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