Assembly axes bill opening patient records

by Elizabeth Fernandez , San Francisco Chronicle

Privacy rights advocates are celebrating the defeat of proposed legislation that
would have allowed California pharmacies to share patients’ drug records with

The bill was rejected by the state Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday, with
all nine members present voting against it.

"This is a victory for California consumers," said Zack Kaldveer of the
Consumer Federation of California
. "It’s also a victory for our state’s
Constitution, which explicitly protects the individual’s right to privacy. When
it comes to medical prescriptions, there is nothing more private. This bill
crossed the line."

Under SB1096, pharmaceutical companies would have been allowed to send
mailings directly to patients suffering from such illnesses as cancer,
Parkinson’s disease and schizophrenia. Drugmakers would have been able to
contract with mailing firms that in turn would have paid fees to pharmacies.
Patients could have opted out from mailings when they picked up their

Supporters said the bill was intended to remind patients to take their
medicine as prescribed.

The California Medical Association and some consumer organizations opposed
the bill, saying it was an invasion of patient privacy. The state Senate
approved it last month by a vote of 21-16.

During the Assembly committee hearing Tuesday, representatives of several
organizations, including AARP and the Congress of California Seniors, testified
against the legislation.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello (Los Angeles
County), said the legislation was the victim of misinformation.

"I know personally what good could have resulted from my bill," he said in a
statement. "My mother died from complications of a stroke she suffered after she
stopped taking her medications."

Van Ellet, a senior legislative representative for AARP, said the measure was
"well-intended. It tried to address an important issue for consumers. But as
drafted, it was the wrong vehicle."