Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner responds to "Plan B" concerns

A letter to the editor in today's Toronto Star: - No problem with giving Plan B info:

Letter, Dec. 9.

In his letter, Tim Lu stated that I recommended pharmacists not ask any questions when dispensing Plan B. Allow me to offer the following correction. I refer him to the Ontario College of Pharmacists notice of Dec. 8, 2005, which states the following: 'the Privacy Commissioner stressed that pharmacists should continue to provide information to patients who request this drug, to gather information and to educate and counsel patients. Pharmacists should ask questions of patients if necessary in the course of providing this service but should not record personal health information in a manner which identifies individual patients.'

My office did not recommend that pharmacists not communicate relevant information to women to ensure the safe and effective use of Plan B. Indeed, I noted that pharmacists provide very important services and guidance. However, in order to protect the privacy of Ontarians, as I am mandated to do under the Personal Health Information Protection Act, I must ensure that identifiable personal health information is only collected when it is necessary and that no more personal health information is collected than is necessary. With this in mind, my office together with the Ontario College of Pharmacists and the Ontario Association of Pharmacists is working expeditiously to develop new guidelines to assist pharmacists when dispensing Plan B.

Again, let me be clear. I have no problem with a pharmacist imparting information on Plan B to patients. My concerns lie with the unnecessary collection and recording of personally identifiable, sensitive health information.

Ann Cavoukian, Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner, Toronto

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