ACLU challenges pain medication drug-testing rule

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A new Indiana rule requiring patients prescribed certain amounts of pain medications to submit to annual drug tests violates their Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable government searches, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit against the state Medical Licensing Board on behalf of a Hamilton County man, James Wierciak, who’s been prescribed medications for more than 18 years for chronic pain from several health problems, the advocacy group said in a news release.

“The Fourth Amendment protects all of us from government-mandated searches unless there is cause or justification. The mandatory drug testing simply goes too far,” ACLU Legal Director Ken Falk said in a news release.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Indianapolis seeks a court order prohibiting the Licensing Board from requiring the drug testing in most cases and from requiring patients to sign agreements consenting to testing. The complaint seeks class-action status.

The rule took effect Dec. 15.

The tests are aimed at detecting “inconsistent medication use patterns or the presence of illicit substances,” according to an emergency rule posted on the Licensing Board’s website that was the basis for the permanent rule.

Bryan Corbin, a spokesman for the Indiana Attorney General’s office, said the rule was required under a new state law and was adopted by the Licensing Board only after public hearings and comment.

“The Medical Licensing Board — with the assistance of the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force which includes medical professionals, and the Indiana State Medical Association — has undertaken reasonable efforts to curb the dangerous overprescribing and diversion of addictive opioids by establishing new rules for physicians,” Corbin said in an email.

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