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

Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling (Steven Senne/AP)
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling (Steven Senne/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

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.


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


Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



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