90-113.74. Confidentiality.

(a) Prescription information submitted to the Department is privileged and confidential, is not a public record pursuant to G.S. 132-1, is not subject to subpoena or discovery or any other use in civil proceedings, and except as otherwise provided below may only be used (i) for investigative or evidentiary purposes related to violations of State or federal law, (ii) for regulatory activities, or (iii) to inform medical records or clinical care. Except as otherwise provided by this section, prescription information shall not be disclosed or disseminated to any person or entity by any person or entity authorized to review prescription information.

(b) The Department may use prescription information data in the controlled substances reporting system only for purposes of implementing this Article in accordance with its provisions.

(b1) The Department may review the prescription information data in the controlled substances reporting system and upon review may:

(1) Notify practitioners that a patient may have obtained prescriptions for controlled substances in a manner that may represent abuse, diversion of controlled substances, or an increased risk of harm to the patient.

(2) Report information regarding the prescribing practices of a practitioner to the agency responsible for licensing, registering, or certifying the practitioner pursuant to rules adopted by the agency as set forth below in subsection (b2) of this section.

(b2) In order to receive a report pursuant to subdivision (2) of subsection (b1) of this section, an agency responsible for licensing, registering, or certifying a practitioner with prescriptive or dispensing authority shall adopt rules setting the criteria by which the Department may report the information to the agency. The criteria for reporting established by rule shall not establish the standard of care for prescribing or dispensing, and it shall not be a basis for disciplinary action by an agency that the Department reported a practitioner to an agency based on the criteria.

(c) The Department shall release data in the controlled substances reporting system to the following persons only:

(1) Persons authorized to prescribe or dispense controlled substances for the purpose of providing medical or pharmaceutical care for their patients. A person authorized to receive data pursuant to this paragraph may delegate the authority to receive the data to other persons working under his or her direction and supervision, provided the Department approves the delegation.

(2) An individual who requests the individual's own controlled substances reporting system information.

(3) Special agents of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation who are assigned to the Diversion & Environmental Crimes Unit and whose primary duties involve the investigation of diversion and illegal use of prescription medication. SBI agents assigned to the Diversion & Environmental Crimes Unit may then provide this information to other SBI agents who are engaged in a bona fide specific investigation related to enforcement of laws governing licit drugs. The SBI shall notify the Office of the Attorney General of North Carolina of each request for inspection of records maintained by the Department.

(4) Primary monitoring authorities for other states pursuant to a specific ongoing investigation involving a designated person, if information concerns the dispensing of a Schedule II through V controlled substance to an ultimate user who resides in the other state or the dispensing of a Schedule II through V controlled substance prescribed by a licensed health care practitioner whose principal place of business is located in the other state.

(5) To a sheriff or designated deputy sheriff or a police chief or a designated police investigator who is assigned to investigate the diversion and illegal use of prescription medication or pharmaceutical products identified in Article 5 of this Chapter of the General Statutes as Schedule II through V controlled substances and who is engaged in a bona fide specific investigation related to the enforcement of laws governing licit drugs pursuant to a lawful court order specifically issued for that purpose.

(6) The Division of Medical Assistance for purposes of administering the State Medical Assistance Plan.

(7) Licensing boards with jurisdiction over health care disciplines pursuant to an ongoing investigation by the licensing board of a specific individual licensed by the board.

(8) Any county medical examiner appointed by the Chief Medical Examiner pursuant to G.S. 130A-382 and the Chief Medical Examiner, for the purpose of investigating the death of an individual.

(9) The federal Drug Enforcement Administration's Office of Diversion Control.

(10) The North Carolina Health Information Exchange Authority (NC HIE Authority), established under Article 29B of this Chapter, through Web-service calls.

(d) The Department may provide data to public or private entities for statistical, research, or educational purposes only after removing information that could be used to identify individual patients who received prescription medications from dispensers.

(e) In the event that the Department finds patterns of prescribing medications that are unusual, the Department shall inform the Attorney General's Office of its findings. The Office of the Attorney General shall review the Department's findings to determine if the findings should be reported to the SBI and the appropriate sheriff for investigation of possible violations of State or federal law relating to controlled substances.

(f) The Department shall, on a quarterly basis, purge from the controlled substances reporting system database all information more than six years old. The Department shall maintain in a separate database all information purged from the controlled substances reporting system database pursuant to this subsection and may release data from that separate database only as provided in subsection (d) of this section.

(g) Nothing in this Article shall prohibit a person authorized to prescribe or dispense controlled substances pursuant to Article 1 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes from disclosing or disseminating data regarding a particular patient obtained under subsection (c) of this section to another person (i) authorized to prescribe or dispense controlled substances pursuant to Article 1 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes and (ii) authorized to receive the same data from the Department under subsection (c) of this section.

(h) Nothing in this Article shall prevent persons licensed or approved to practice medicine or perform medical acts, tasks, and functions pursuant to Article 1 of Chapter 90 of the General Statutes from retaining data received pursuant to subsection (c) of this section in a patient's confidential health care record. (2005-276, s. 10.36(a); 2009-438, s. 2; 2013-152, s. 3; 2015-241, s. 12F.16(d); 2016-94, s. 12F.6.)