At the legislature -- UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, February 1, 2007

At the legislature -- UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, Feb 1, 2007 at 12:06 PM

You'd hardly know Democrats dominate the legislature, what with the stuff Republicans are successfully pushing.

Roby Brock at Talk Business has news of a House committee's approval of GOP Rev. Keven Anderson's $70 million tax break in the form of $75-a-person income tax credits. This is Trojan horse to beat Mike Beebe's grocery tax repeal. And it's not your grandmother's low-income-family tax relief any more. It will be given to individuals making $25,000 per year and families making $50,000.

Elsewhere, no action today, but there might be next week in the Senate on Sen. Denny Altes bill (SB 20) to implement Bush administration policy to build a huge database on the prescription drugs you take. You can trust the government not to leak your records to anyone, right? It's a civil liberties outrage. An ACLU letter to senators on the issue is on the jump.

UPDATE: The Brummett Blog has some analysis on the tax cut doings and a promise of a bit of a scoop on that matter in his Sunday column.

 

RITA SKLAR LETTER TO SENATORS ON SB 20

For anyone who cares about patient confidentiality, this bill should be of great concern.
  
  This bill mandates that every time a pharmacist fulfills a prescription on the federal drug lists Schedule II - Schedule IV -- or any other drug the Health Department deems appropriate -- that prescription must be entered into a Health Department database.
  
  For every prescription that qualifies, the pharmacist would report the name and address of the patient and of the doctor, as well as a "Patient ID number" which we can only assume is something the Health Department will assign to all of us in this database.  The Health Department will then monitor these prescriptions for patterns that might indicate illegal activity.  Once they make that assessment, they must call law enforcement, who will have access to the database, without a warrant.  The idea is to prevent "doctor shopping" -- either abuse of drugs like Oxycontin, a painkiller, or an accumulation of enough pills to sell them.
  
  But the bill throws the baby out with the bath water.  Some of the drug prescriptions pharmacists must  report are:

  * Ritalin - used to treat ADD and ADHD in children and adults
  * Clonazepam -  a common anti-anxiety medication
  * Testosterone -  used for hormone replacement in men who are not able to produce enough testosterone (e.g., hypogonadism).  Testosterone helps the body to produce sperm and to develop and maintain the male sexual characteristics (masculinity), such as a deep voice and body hair. It also helps to maintain muscle and prevent bone loss and is necessary for natural sexual ability/interest.
  * Painkillers like Percocet
  * Compal -  known as "Cymbalta," an anti-depressant
  * Tylenol with Codeine - commonly used with adults and children for toothaches, minor surgery, etc.
  * Dorimide - used to treat glaucoma and other diseases of the eye
  * Redux - used as an anti-viral medication and to combat obesity

  Clearly there are very serious privacy concerns here.  The State would have access to very sensitive medical information, including whether your child had ADD, or you were depressed, or anxious, or had a testosterone deficiency.  These drugs are in no way connected to the law enforcement purpose this bill is supposed to address.
  
  This is just another giant government database including sensitive personal information that could easily be leaked, sold or used for purposes not described.  How much do we want the government to know about us?  Do we want the government to know everything about everybody?
  
  As for the Oxycontin issue: yes, some people abuse it, but for many others it is the only way to relieve mind-numbing, chronic pain.  Doctors will hesitate to give the amount of painkillers a patient might need for fear of being investigated, and law abiding citizens, like cancer victims, will not get adequate pain relief.
  
  I appreciate in advance your consideration of our concerns.  Attached is the bill as well as the list of Schedule II - IV drugs from the DEA website.
  
  I have not sent this email to the entire senate.  Please feel free to email me at the above address, or call me if you have any questions or if there is any way i can be of assistance.
  
  Rita Sklar
  Executive Director
  ACLU of Arkansas

 

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