Mass. U.S. Attorney's Prescription Monitoring Raises Privacy Questions

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Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling (Steven Senne/AP)
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling (Steven Senne/AP)

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling announced yesterday that his office sent letters to doctors around the state warning them their opioid prescribing practices were "a source of concern."

He says a data review by his office identified them as having prescribed opioids to a patient within 60 days of their death, or to a patient who later died of an overdose.

He says the Department of Justice has not, at this point, determined if any of the doctors contacted had broken the law — and did not disclose what exactly the letters said and how many went out when contacted by WBUR.

It's a significant action by a U.S. attorney in the midst of a national opioid crisis, and raises major questions about physician and patient privacy.

Watchdogs say state and federal law enforcement agencies access thousands of patients' prescription records every year — often without warrants.


Leo Beletsky, associate professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University School of Law. He tweets @LeoBeletsky.

This segment aired on November 30, 2018.


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Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.


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Walter Wuthmann is a state politics reporter for WBUR.



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