The nation’s largest pharmacy chains, including CVS Health, Kroger and Rite Aid, which have a combined 60,000 locations nationwide, are handing over Americans’ prescription records to police and government investigators without a warrant, Drew Harwell reports for the Washington Post. Officials with America’s eight biggest pharmacy giants told congressional investigators that they required only a subpoena, not a warrant, to share the records. Officials said they instruct their pharmacy staff members to process law enforcement requests on the spot.
The eight pharmacy giants collectively received tens of thousands of legal demands every year, and that most were in connection with civil lawsuits. It’s unclear how many were related to law enforcement demands, or how many requests were fulfilled. Amazon was the only company that said it notified customers when law enforcement demanded its pharmacy records unless there was a legal prohibition. The pharmacy data could be especially concerning for the nearly 1 in 3 women ages 15 to 44 who live in states where abortion is fully or mostly banned. In a letter to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, the lawmakers called on HHS to strengthen HIPAA’s rules and ensure pharmacies insist on a warrant, which would require law enforcement to go to court to enforce such requests.