Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES) is a prescription drug monitoring program in California (Health
and Safety Code § 11165.) The statute, created in 1996, states that
every prescription of a Schedule II, III, or IV controlled substance must
be logged in CURES. Information includes the name of the patient, address,
telephone number, gender, date of birth, drug name, quantity, number of
refills, and information about the prescribing physician and pharmacy.
CURES is maintained by the California Department of Justice (DOJ). It requires
any pharmacy or dispenser that prescribes or dispenses controlled substances
listed on Schedules II, III, or IV to keep a record of the prescription
and to report specific information to the Department of Justice (DOJ)
as soon as reasonably possible, subject to certain exceptions.
Data obtained from CURES can be provided to “appropriate state, local,
and federal public agencies for disciplinary, civil, or criminal purposes
and to other agencies or entities, as determined by the Department of
Justice… (Health and Safety Code § 11165, subdivision (c)(2)(A)).
PRESCRIPTION DRUG MONITORING PROGRAM:
In 2009, the California Attorney General started the
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) system, which allows licensed health care prescribers, pharmacists,
law enforcement, and regulatory boards, to obtain from CURES real-time
patient history information concerning controlled substances. Before the
PDMP program, information from CURES had to be requested by fax, phone,
or mail and would typically take days to be received.
Under Article 1, Section 1 of the California Constitution, individuals
have a right to privacy. Although CURES is designed to protect patient
privacy and confidentiality, patient information can be accessed without
a warrant, subpoena, or showing of good cause. The question is whether
this disclosure from CURES violates the patient’s right to privacy.
Courts have said no. The information disclosed does not relate to an “obvious
invasion of an interest fundamental to personal autonomy; for example,
the freedom to pursue consensual family relationships or freedom from
involuntary sterilization. (Hill v. National Collegiate Athletic Association
(1994) 7 Cal.4th 1, pp 34-35.) According to the court, patients have not
been deprived of the right to access prescription medications to pursue
treatment because of the disclosure in CURES. They can simply make the
choice to use the medication, knowing that certain information will be
disclosed. Since the privacy interest is not fundamental to personal autonomy,
countervailing interest to access the information from CURES is all that
is needed. Sufficient countervailing interests can be protecting patients
from being over-prescribed, prescribed the wrong medications, and/or protecting
the public from negligent or incompetent physicians. Presumably, this
legitimate government interest makes accessing your private information legal.
If you are someone you know has been arrested or are accused of a prescription
contact my office today. We have represented clients since 2004 in prescription