Viewers respond to Prescription Privacy - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

13 Investigates

Viewers respond to Prescription Privacy

13 Investigates exposed an identity crisis at many local pharmacies. This Eyewitness News Investigation into prescription privacy has a lot of people talking. We're listening and so are state and federal regulators. Here is a sample of the more than 300 e-mails we received following the investigation. Share your thoughts with us.

First of all I want to personally thank you for the investigation you conducted in the matter at hand. It's nice to see that major companies are held to the responsibilities of the law and to their customers. I know this would not have been taken care of without you bringing it to the attention of your listeners of your station. I personally want to salute you for your dedication to your community.
-- Dan M.

I want to thank you and applaud your efforts on reporting the story about what you found in the dumpsters of local pharmacies. With the frequent sweltering hot weather of the past few weeks, I am sure it was not a "fun" assignment, but the information you have uncovered is of paramount importance to the public. The concerns you and people you have interviewed have expressed are all true and very valid as many peoples' privacy has been violated. However, there is yet another angle that you've not yet mentioned that concerns me greatly as well... I have to take very large doses of a potent and "street-popular" narcotic every day for pain control. As you must know, several local pharmacies have been recently robbed at gunpoint in order for thieves to illegally obtain this drug. I try to closely guard the fact that I take this particular medication and especially the large quantity I have on hand at the beginning of a prescription cycle. The "street value" would be very substantial. Therefore, I am now extremely worried that thieves could also go "dumpster diving" and find out my name, address and the specifics about the type, quantity and strength of the medication I have on hand, which could easily trigger a robbery at my home.... This is pretty frightening.
--Bob R.

I understand the point of the investigation. I understand we all have private information we do not want others to have access to. These items are trash. They are in a dumpster to be disposed of and placed there by unsuspecting employees. The next part of your investigation should be to go through trash left for pick up at the end of driveways. You will find the same information in those trash bags, probably even more information. The problem is there are people out there that lie, cheat, steal, and take advantage. Thank you for your report and hard work.
--Bob M.

I saw your report on the ongoing investigation involving pharmacy trash and I for one to say the least am outraged my personal info may be thrown out with the trash and yet you keep finding these same places are still doing it but at the same time what can I do to make sure it doesn't happen to me and my family's info. Please stay with this investigation until it is resolved I would also like to hear what the corporate headquarters have to say about this totally lack of security as well as irresponsibility to their costumers and patients. I have been calling everyone I know about this ordeal and they will be watching your report as well. Thank you.
--Mike

Thank you for your series of reports regarding the trashing of private pharmacy records. My pharmacy was listed on the WTHR website as one that was found to be neglectful with their customer's personal information.  Your reports lead me to question if my pharmacy's computer database is secure enough from identity theft. Is my Name, Date of Birth, Social Security, Medicare and Credit Card information adequately protected? I will be contacting my pharmacy's corporate headquarters for answers. Thanks again.
--Steve S.

Name and address on a prescription bottle is no big deal. You can get that out of the phone book. It is important for the person to have the name of the medication on the bottle to ensure they are taking the correct medicine. Info beyond those items is private and should not be thrown into the trash.
--John B.

OK, we get it, we get. Pharmacies put private patient information in to the dumpster. Of course they shouldn't. But don't you think that a 3-part story showing one of your reporters dumpster-diving to be more than a little overdone? I suppose I now know if I want to find out who in my neighborhood has erectile dysfunction or takes birth control that I can put on my old jeans and a thick pair of gloves and hit the Walgreen's garbage pail. I have always wondered if that old guy down the street has high blood pressure. But come on on guys, who really cares? There's serious news to report.
--Robert S.

I just want to thank you for uncovering such sloppy practices by some pharmacies. It's really inexcusable. What is even MORE inexcusable is that they didn't even clean up their act after getting such negative publicity. Unbelievable.
--Megan T.

I THINK YOU DID AN AWESOME JOB INVESTIGATING AND REPORTING THIS. THIS WAS SOMETHING I WOULDN'T HAVE EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT, LIKE SO MANY OTHERS. IN TIMES WHEN WE HAVE TO PROTECT OURSELVES FROM IDENTITY THEFT AMONG OTHER THINGS, I APPRECIATE YOU BRINGING THIS TO US ALL.
--LISA H.

My husband and I watched your investigative report each night this week, and were horrified to learn that our pharmacist, CVS on 56th and Georgetown was one of the worst violators in handling our personal health records. We switched our drug store the very next day to Costco's on W. 86th street and the first thing I asked before signing was, "How do you handle a customer's files?" Words can not say "Thank you" enough, but you have my utmost respect for having the guts to dig in trash bins in order to educate our community. I can't wait to see your next report!
--Yolanda J.

I'm sorry, (I work in Human Resources), don't they realize this could be concidered a violation of the HIPPA laws??? !!!! Man, I'd hate to be the person on the receiving end of that lawsuit . When you go to a doctor or pharmacy,you are given paperwork on what exactly HIPPA is and what it covers. It does state that your medical and personal history with them is kept under strick confidentiality and not shared with ANYONE without permission from the patient.Seems to me this could turn out to be a really ugly situation for these pharmacies if the HIPPA people decide to step in and investigate this little problem you've uncovered !
Good job reporting on this issue !!! Keep up the good work !
--Stacy R.

The big question you failed to ask each of the consumers you presented the "found" information is "how do THEY dispose of their prescription bottles and package inserts"? I'd bet nearly every single one of them throws the empty bottles and package inserts into their trash. Very few people, especially elderly people, have document shredders or bother to destroy their used med bottles. While the stores shouldn't assume the trash (dumpster) is adequate disposal, most people do the same thing. Dumpster diving is not expected behavior...neither is digging up stuff in a landfill. The stuff in those plastic bags are in the same condition 5 years later after being buried! The moral is, just because you toss out something doesn't mean it's gone or someone won't "find it" again! Not to water down your story but you could get better information than you presented just digging through people's trash before the garbage man comes. But again, most people assume that folks don't do that. I guess it's presumed honesty...can we go back to the 50's? These issues didn't exist then.
--Scott W.

I recently have been following your story covering local pharmacy's lack of protecting customers privacy. I appreciate your efforts to make the public aware of the importance of protecting ones personal information, especially in light of the surge in identity theft over the last decade. The truth Mr. Segall, is that it is more than just pharmacy's that violate customers right to privacy. You could go dumpster diving in dumpsters belonging to Banks, Credit Unions, Mortgage and Insurance companies, and find much, if not more damaging personal information, should it fall in to the wrong hands. I would like to point out however, that in the end, it is as much up to individual responsibility and diligence to maintain a high level of awareness as what one does with ones information as it is to count on a certain level of expectation that the company you are doing business with will respect your sensitive information.... quite often, as a patient is leaving the pharmacy with their new prescriptions ... they stop at the trash can just outside the door, dispose of their own previousely used pill bottles, and tear open the bags which contain their new prescription bottles, and dispose of the sack, as well as the patient instructions with their personal information on it, in the trash can outside the front door. So, in the end, they hurt themselves.
--John G.

You did a terrific job on reporting how pharmacies were carelessly throwing private patient information in the trash where anybody could access it. I thank you (as I can only hope other people and families do) for investigating, reporting, and bringing this matter out in the open so we are aware of it and so we (as pharmacy customers) can decide what actions we need to do in order to protect our private information.
--Danielle M.

I'm really disappointed in the reporting of the pharmacy's disposal of patient information.... I keep thinking "thanks WTHR and Bob Segall for telling every low life in the city how they can get more information on the citizens of Indianapolis and surrounding areas".... We all worry about identity theft, try to shred information - shredding it all is impossible. Now the pharmacies may lock up their trash - but, potential identity thiefs now know its there and a simple locking system won't keep them out - I think your BIG news story has made the situation worse - again, thanks a lot.
--Carole F.

I am having a hard time getting worked up with this story. So far all I have seen are names, addresses, phone numbers, and date of birth. Not too "Shocking". As far as I know this is not private info but public info that can easily be found, most of which in the phone book. Should the pharmacies be more careful? Maybe. I am curious to know that of all these people who are "Shocked" that this info is in dumpsters, how many of them are careful as to how they dispose of the tons of junk mail, especially credit applications, that already has that same info along with account numbers? What about old prescription bottles that they dispose of on their own? I would bet that a "Shocking " number of them just pitch all of that stuff into the trash. I shred everything I revive. It looks like you put in a lot of effort into this story but to my wife and me it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Surely there are plenty of other topics that would have a greater "shock" value.
--Chris T.

Thanks for your investigation of the pharmacies but I think it is equally important to remind people to take the labels off the prescription bottles before they throw them into their own garbage at home because the same thing can happen-personal information out to anyone who sifts through a garbage can in our own yards.
--Mary C.

I found your recent study about the drug stores a complete success. Thanks to you and the station the local pharmacies might get it together and do what should have been done all along. I didn't see my local pharmacy at 4401 E. 10th St. on the list with the maps. Perhaps its one that wasn't checked. Either way I am sure that they too will look a bit closer at their store. Hope so.
--Wanda P.

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