In January, a joint team of privacy experts that included the ACLU and Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to four major opioid manufacturers. We informed them that millions of patients, many using prescription opioids for chronic pain, were relying on their services. We warned them that their practices were in violation of a 1972 privacy law, called the Federal Trade Commission Act, and that, if we couldn’t see internal documents, we would file a lawsuit.
We were met with a scorched-earth reply from representatives of the pharmaceutical industry. In several letters, the representatives told us that we could never be certain of the legality of the information that the companies gleaned from patients. The letters suggested that we should threaten the companies and then, if they failed to cooperate, in 10 years’ time, to follow through on our threat. That would scare the hell out of companies. We did not do that and still do not know the legal status of our letters. Now, three months after we sent our letters, we are in the process of filing a lawsuit.