A court case is playing out between the Drug Enforcement Agency and the state of Utah. At issue is whether the DEA should have greater access to private prescription drug information.
The case surrounds Utah’s Controlled Substance Database, an electronic record that doctors and pharmacists use. Drug prescriptions are recorded in it to prevent over-prescribing of drugs to patients.
Now the DEA wants greater access to it in their effort to address drug abuse in Utah. A variety of local groups oppose the change.
Jeremy Robertson is a paramedic and the president of Salt Lake County Firefighters, Local 1696.
"The federal government is telling us that our state law no longer is applicable to them," he says.
Robertson opposes the DEA request because of a 2014 case when law enforcement wrongly accused employees of the Unified Fire Authority of stealing prescription drugs. They were found innocent and it led to the current requirement that law enforcement obtain a warrant before accessing individuals’ drug records.
Robertson says this private information should remain protected.
"It should not be used as a pool for law enforcement to try to search to try to find potential offenders."
Another group involved in the case is the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah. Rusty Andrade is the organization’s board chair. He says the change would give law enforcement access to medical records individuals assume are private.
"The problem is for transgender individuals who are undergoing hormone treatment, the use of testosterone would be something that’s registered in Utah’s database," Andrade says.
Utah DEA representatives were not available for comment.
In late July a federal judge ruled in support the DEA’s ability to get access to the database with a subpoena but no warrant. The Utah Attorney General’s Office is representing the state. They are considering whether to appeal that decision.