Maintaining privacy protections in Colorado’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Friday, December 12, 2014 08:15 AM
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Colorado’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) provides prescribers and pharmacists a secure database with immediate access to their patients’ history of controlled substance prescriptions. The state Board of Pharmacy, which has oversight over the PDMP, protects the confidentiality of patient medical records and information.

Since launching in 2007, there have been many privacy protections built into the PDMP system. Each day, pharmacies upload prescription data for controlled medications Schedule II to V that are dispensed to Colorado patients.

In 2014, a new law was passed that requires PDMP account registration by Colorado-licensed pharmacists and prescribers who are registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for prescribing controlled substances. The law does not mandate usage. To make it easier for prescribers and pharmacists to get the information they need to provide the best care for their patients, the new law has a provision for prescribers and pharmacists to assign sub-accounts to up to three members of their health care team. To do so, the prescriber or pharmacist must have a registered PDMP account. The deadline for physicians to register was Nov. 30.

Under the new law, prescribers or pharmacists who delegate sub-accounts to members of their health care team will be accountable for the actions of their delegated team members. Additionally, prescribers and pharmacists with registered accounts (and their delegated team members) may only access information on patients under their care. Registered account holders may not share their username or password.

The information in the PDMP is considered a medical record and therefore falls under the legal provisions concerning the release, sharing and use of such health information.  It is unlawful to release, obtain or attempt to obtain information from the PDMP for a use other than to make a prescribing or dispensing decision. Violations are punishable by civil fines of $1,000 - $10,000 per violation (§12-45.5-406, C.R.S.).

The State Board of Pharmacy enforces privacy protections in the PDMP and has handled five cases of unlawful use since the program’s inception in 2007.  In one instance, a physician was fined $10,000 for a willful violation by accessing the dispensing history for a former spouse. 

Patients can access their data within the PDMP by completing a request form online and providing a copy of their driver’s license or state-issued identification card.  To improve public health research, the new law also permits researchers and public policy experts at the Colorado Department of Health and Environment (CDPHE) to access PDMP data. Use of the PDMP by CDPHE, however, is subject to the same HIPAA laws in effect for healthcare providers concerning medical records.

To register an account and use the PDMP, visit or for general questions and information call 303-894-5957 or email Practitioners can find additional guidance in the Policy for Prescribing and Dispensing Opioids at and patients can obtain a copy of their medical information contained in PDMP by completing a form at

Posted in: ASAP | Initiatives | Prescription Drug Abuse | Patient Safety and Professional Accountability


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