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Aug 14 2009

Lawmakers eliminate CSRS “gag rule”

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The NC General Assembly took action July 30 to fix what has been clinicians' main gripe about the Controlled Substances Reporting System: a strict prohibition on discussing a patient's prescription profile with other medical professionals.

Senate Bill 628 rewrites state law to allow physicians and others to discuss patient information obtained from the CSRS with authorized colleagues. The bill, sponsored by Sen. William R. Purcell, MD, passed both houses of the legislature July 30 and was sent to the Governor for signature. It is effective when it becomes law.

Under current law, practitioners may not disclose a patient's prescription profile or discuss it with anyone, other than the patient. This has been frustrating to many physicians, who feel the restrictions hamper their ability to effectively consult with colleagues who may be treating and prescribing for the same patient.

William D. Bronson, who oversees the CSRS for the NC Department of Health and Human Services, predicts that prescribers will embrace the changes authorized by S628.

"Everyone will be happier," Bronson said. "I believe [the gag rule] was an unintentional side effect of the law when it first passed because of very strong concerns about privacy. I don't believe the legislature intended it to be that tight."

S628 would expressly permit authorized prescribers to disclose and discuss data obtained by checking a patient's controlled substances profile with another prescriber authorized to access the reporting system. The bill further rewrites the law to clarify that CSRS data may be retained in a patient's confidential medical record. Finally, S628 authorizes county medical examiners who are investigating
the death of an individual to access the CSRS.

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