Colorado to Discuss Retinal Scans, Fingerprinting to Secure Prescription Drugs

By Carlton Purvis

Linda Gorman and Amy Oliver of the Independence Institute, a conservative think tank based in Colorado, say mandating fingerprints and taking retinal scans forces people to choose between getting adequate medical care and privacy.

“Data kept in paper files in separate offices is hard to steal. It becomes insecure when it is uploaded to an electronic database,” they wrote in a joint letter to The Gazette. “Under that bill, you won’t be able to get prescription medications or controlled over-the-counter medications without providing a biometric identifier…. Failure to comply would be a Class 1 misdemeanor, a crime as serious as the possession of child pornography or third degree assault.”

Steve Siegel, CEO of Biotech Medical Software said the company developed the technology not to mine data, but to plug holes in the prescribing process that allow drugs to be obtained illegally.

“We’ve discovered some flaws in the State of Colorado that some people don’t realize,” said Steve Siegel, CEO of Biotech Medical Software by phone on Monday. “For example, their Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) doesn’t require ID verification for someone to fill a prescription so a lot of information in the system is probably erroneous. And most pharmacies don’t require ID. They just ask for the person’s address verbally…Why is it called a controlled substance if you you’re not verifying who’s getting it?”

Siegel says it impacts people trying to fill prescriptions legally too. “If a patient forgets their apartment number and the pharmacist just enters the building number, well that patient could be denied a prescription because someone else is using that address,” he said.

Gorman worries that the biometric database will be combined with other databases to dictate they type of health care people can get.  "Our concern is that they will eventually link these [biometric] databases to something you can't opt out of...[this bill would require] I have to give them something before I get health care that I didn't have to before because they're bad at monitoring their programs?"

The biometric system and database would also provide data in real time. “Federal law requires verification for pseudoephedrine, but it’s not in real time. So once they arrest you, they look back at the record to build a case against you. Our system would tell a pharmacy or doctor right then where that medicine was filled already,” he said.

Siegel says the database would be completely anonymous. If someone was to hack the system, they would see a biometric signature and a medication, but not a patient associated with that information, he said.

Based on available government incentives for sending prescriptions electronically, Siegel says he sees biometric prescribing going nationwide by 2014.

Gorman hopes not. "They're wanting people to do this for a prescription when they don’t even require ID to vote? Are they going to have retinal scans on the vending machines that hold Plan B?"

Lawmakers will discuss the bill on Thursday. The hearing will be broadcast live on the Colorado General Assembly Web site. 

photos from flickr by frostnova and zenliorac


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