Tool to help police in opioid crisis draws privacy concern

Associated Press


New Jersey is the latest state amid a national opioid crisis to consider allowing police and law-enforcement officials to access its prescription-drug-monitoring database without a court order, pitting patient rights to privacy against the government’s ability to investigate so-called doctor shopping.

Republican state Sen. Robert Singer introduced the legislation last week after discussions with a county prosecutor, arguing that the legislation will help officials target physicians who might be illicitly prescribing powerful prescription medications.

“We are in a crisis in this country, and when you’re in a crisis form, you have to take certain actions,” Singer said. “This action is another tool in their arsenal.”

But the legislation faces powerful opponents in New Jersey, chiefly Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who says he’s opposed to the idea.

Nationally, the number of deaths from opioid drugs topped 30,000 in 2015, nearly double the rate from a decade ago, according to the National Institutes for Health. Across the country, states have implemented prescription-drug-monitoring databases that allow pharmacists, doctors and law enforcement to track who may be giving out too many controlled substances.

The proposed law in New Jersey comes as states across the country are grappling with how much leeway to give officials and law enforcement when it comes to examining the databases.

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