Police Don’t Need a Warrant to Get Your Info from a Pharmacy

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According to The Washington Post, the nation’s largest pharmacy chains – Walgreens Boots Alliance, CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger, Cigna, Optum Rx and Amazon Pharmacy – have handed over Americans’ prescription records to police and government investigators without a warrant, a congressional investigation found. All they needed was a subpoena.

What happened to HIPPA you ask? It seems HIPPA gives pharmacies leeway.

The Post writes:

The nation’s largest pharmacy chains have handed over Americans’ prescription records to police and government investigators without a warrant, a congressional investigation found, raising concerns about threats to medical privacy.

Pharmacies’ records hold some of the most intimate details of their customers’ personal lives, including years-old medical conditions and the prescriptions they take for mental health and birth control.

Because the chains often share records across all locations, a pharmacy in one state can access a person’s medical history from states with more-restrictive laws. Carly Zubrzycki, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut Law School, wrote last year that this could link a person’s out-of-state medical care via a “digital trail” back to their home state.

Unlike a court order or warrant, a government agency can issue a subpoena that does not require a judge’s approval. Law enforcement must persuade a judge to obtain a warrant that the information is vital to investigate a crime. Officials with CVS, Kroger, and Rite Aid said they instruct their pharmacy staff members to process law enforcement requests on the spot.

CVS says they get very few requests.

Some states, such as Louisiana, Montana, and Pennsylvania, offer additional protections, and lawmakers have asked HHS to strengthen HIPAA’s rules and ensure pharmacies insist on a warrant.

This is a serious privacy violation.


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