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Prescriptions and Privacy: CURES & Prescription Drug Monitoring Program


The 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)).


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 drug crime, contact my office today. We have represented clients since 2004 in prescription drug defense.