Monday, June 17, 2013

How to fill your prescription anonymously

I am posting a copy of my blog post from February 2009 again, because the system is still valid--at least in some cases.  (If your doctor has signed up with some computer system connected to a hospital, this may not work)

Just a few days ago I asked for a prescription from a new doctor.  ("Please give me a paper one, made out to J. Luna".)  No problem.  I took it to a pharmacy where I had never been before.  I was handed a form to fill out.  I said I already had the information and handed her a printed slip for "Joaquin" Luna with a complicated four-line address in Spain and a phone number that had way too many digits for a U.S. computer.  I told the clerk I was just visiting.

     "Where are you staying?"
     "With a friend," I said.  (My wife is quite a good friend!)
     "What's your friend's address?"
     "She would not want me to give it out,"
     "Okay, come back in 20 minutes, sir."

When I picked up the subscription I was amused to see the label:  Joaquin Luna, GENERAL DELIVERY, [city and state].

Here now is the original post from 2009:

The problem with prescriptions is that you lose your privacy when the pharmacist enters your name, address and telephone number into a database.

Step one. Tell the doctor to make your prescription out in your first initial and last name. Only once have I had a problem with this. When I got out to my car, I noticed that—despite my instructions—the doctor had nevertheless included my first name. I returned to the office, showed the prescription to the nurse at the counter, and said, “Doctor Jones told me he would make this to J. Luna but I see he forgot, and put in my first name. Please have him write it again to just J. Luna.” She disappeared into the back, and returned within minutes with the new prescription.

Step two: Select a new first name, one that begins with the same initial. For example, if your name is Dale Martin and your prescription reads D. Martin, you can use another name such as Dalton, Davis, Dean, Denton, Dick, Drake, or Dudley.

Step three: Choose a new address, phone number, and a new date of birth to go along with the new name.

Step four: Order your prescription at a pharmacy where you have never been before. For maximum security, prepare a business card on your computer with a foreign address and phone number. One of my consulting clients has business cards made up in a variation of his name, with an address in Spain’s Canary Islands. (The address is legitimate because he has a ghost address that is available on my website.) When a pharmacist sees the address, he or she usually just enters “Spain” and skips the telephone number.

Once you’ve gotten a prescription this way, you have two choices for the next time you need one filled. You can go back to the same place, use the same data (show the label on your previous bottle), and be prepared with an answer to a question such as “Oh, I see you are visiting again from …” Or, you can choose another first name, another date of birth, another address and phone number, and go to a different pharmacy.

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