PharmaNet privacy breach: Personal information of 1,600 people accessed

THE Ministry of Health, with assistance from Health Insurance BC and the Office of the Chief Information Officer, has discovered and stopped a privacy breach involving PharmaNet, the prescription medication dispensing information system.

On June 24, PharmaNet staff conducted a forensic audit after noticing suspicious activity on the system. The audit discovered that between March 9 and June 19, an unknown, unauthorized person used a doctor’s PharmaNet account without the doctor’s knowledge to access the personal information of about 1,600 people.

The privacy breach involved the names, dates of birth, addresses, telephone numbers, and personal health numbers (BC Services Card or Care Card numbers) of all the affected people. For 34 people, the unauthorized access also involved looking at medication histories.

The unauthorized access did not allow the unknown person to acquire fraudulent prescriptions through the system itself, as electronic prescribing is not a PharmaNet service.

The Ministry of Health and the B.C. government’s Office of the Chief Information Officer are investigating.

The Ministry of Health has started contacting all 1,600 affected people by letter. The letter will contain a telephone number to contact if those affected have questions or concerns.

The Ministry of Health will offer free credit protection services to all people affected by this incident, so they can safeguard their personal information.

While this privacy breach did not include banking information, enough information was accessed to be used for identity theft. The ministry encourages affected people keep a close eye on their bank accounts, credit cards, and online identity and services.

Those affected can contact their local pharmacy to put a keyword on their PharmaNet profile. They can also request, through Health Insurance BC, a Medical Services Plan alert, which prompts health professionals to ask for a second piece of identification when a person uses his or her personal health number (BC Services Card or Care Card number).