Arizona City to Require Fingerprinting at Pharmacies

…. to target fraud. Sure!

Plan to require fingerprinting to pick up certain prescriptions targets fraud

Peoria could become the first Arizona city to require fingerprinting at pharmacies when picking up prescriptions for commonly abused drugs in an effort to curb an escalating number of fraud cases.

Peoria law-enforcement officials this month proposed an ordinance that would require anyone filling prescriptions for drugs such as OxyContin and Percocet to show ID and be fingerprinted at the pharmacy counter, including anyone picking up a prescription for a family member or friend.

Peoria City Attorney Steve Kemp said the proposal could provide better evidence to prosecute cases.

Dan Pochoda, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, called it an “overreaction.”

“This raises serious concerns about intrusion of privacy,” Pochoda said.

Kemp said he expects to present details of the plan to the Arizona State Board of Pharmacy in January and to seek its input.

He said it’s likely he will return to the City Council by March with the proposed ordinance.

Officials in several Valley cities, including Phoenix and Scottsdale, said that although prescription fraud is a concern, no such ordinances are in the works.

This isn’t the first time that laws related to drug sales have been launched at the city level.

Cities have passed laws to put tighter controls on the sale of over-the-counter items containing pseudoephedrine, which is used to make methamphetamine.

State lawmakers responded in 2005, passing a law requiring the decongestant to be sold behind the counter.

State health officials pushed for a statewide database launched in 2008 to track certain prescriptions.

The program stores individuals’ prescription information so physicians and pharmacists can identify “doctor shoppers,” people who visit numerous doctors to get drugs that are potentially addictive.

The state pharmacy board does not have to notify law enforcement.

Peoria’s proposal would tie law enforcement into the equation.

States such as New York, Nevada and Texas similarly require ID when purchasing commonly abused prescriptions.

None has gone as far as requiring fingerprints.

Delray Beach in Florida considered it, although no such law passed there.

Peoria’s proposal stems from what officials say is an escalating local and national concern.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription-drug abuse is second to marijuana as the country’s most prevalent drug problem.

Prescription-fraud cases in Peoria have doubled since 2009, from 50 to 100, which only counts cases police had leads to follow.

Kemp said fingerprinting happens routinely at such places as scrap-metal dealerships, where state law requires it for those selling scrap worth more than $25.

He said fingerprints would only be checked if there was reason to verify a person’s ID in a suspected fraud case.

But is fingerprinting the answer? And is it even legal?

Kemp said he thinks it would hold up in court. He said he sees it as similar to the other instances where fingerprinting is already required.

Several industry officials said the proposed ordinance could be problematic, at least practically.

“I think they have an authority to do it, but it may not be wise because it will be hard for pharmacies to track which law to follow in which city,” said Hal Wand, Arizona State Board of Pharmacy executive director.

Wand said he hasn’t heard any discussion of the issue at the state level or elsewhere in Arizona.

John Norton, a spokesman for the National Community Pharmacists Association described the Peoria proposal as “one of the most stringent ones we have heard of.”

Mindy Smith, chief executive of Arizona Pharmacy Alliance, said the proposal may not end fraud.

“Those who seek drugs fraudulently would simply go elsewhere,” she said.

Sgt. Ed Wessing, spokesman for Mesa police, said he saw “no harm” in requiring IDs to fill prescriptions, “but who picks and chooses what kinds of medications to regulate and combinations of medications can be problematic.”

He declined comment on the fingerprinting aspect.

Pochoda of the ACLU said that to collect fingerprints of everyone filling a prescription is “like saying we’ll take a blood sample of every person, and later if they are a suspect we’ll use it.”

by Sonu Munshi – Dec. 21, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Source: AZ Central

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