CA: Consumer groups and advocates oppose SB 1096

From a press release issued today:

Jerry Flanagan, Health Care Policy Director, Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights will speak out against proposed legislation that would create a loophole in existing law which bars the sharing of private medical information without a patient’s consent. The bill, SB 1096 (Calderon), does so by deeming what amounts to marketing material to be necessary to provide health care services. Transfers of private medical information — including a patient’s illnesses and prescribed medications — to private companies hired by drug manufacturers to increase prescription drug sales would occur without the patient’s knowledge or consent. Such databases of medical records are attractive targets to hackers and identity thieves.

The Consumer Federation of California has also opposed the bill and sent Senator Calderon a strong letter of opposition on March 5, which said, in part:

SB 1096 would create an exception to California’s Medical Information Act, and allow sharing of confidential patient drug prescription information without a patient’s consent. The bill’s main backer, Adheris Inc., is a subsidiary of inVentiv Health Inc., a drug marketing company. Under SB 1096, drug stores would provide confidential patient prescription information to third party businesses. The third party would prepare mailings to patients that would have the appearance of coming from the pharmacy. These third party marketing corporations would, in turn provide patient information to, and receive payment from, pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to send the mailings, ostensibly to remind patients to take their medications or to renew their prescriptions.

This type of privacy invasion should not occur without the consent of the patient.

On the web: SB 1096

Update 1: Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR) has sent its own letter to the Senate Health Committee. The letter says, in part:

The bill would allow companies like Adheris, the bill sponsor, to access patients’ prescription drug purchases, putatively only for the purpose of communicating with patients to increase “adherence” to the scheduled regimen. But it is clearly, for the drug companies that pay Adheris, a direct marketing tool. Adheris is likely to directly or indirectly encourage a patient to stay on a branded medication, even if a cheaper generic is available.

[…]

The bill is premised on the idea that mailed reminders will help ensure that patients take their medications. The bill sponsor provides no evidence to support the claim. Further, if in fact a reminder to take medication was the goal of the bill, the pharmacy itself could send the reminder without necessitating the transfer of private medical data to a third-party business. If pharmaceutical companies were only interested in adherence, they could fund payments to pharmacists to directly provide the service. Even if the pharmacy used a third-party mail house to send the notice, the information could be encrypted so that it would not be identifiable to a particular patient.

However, a simple reminder is not the purpose of these mailings. Among other things, Adheris’ marketing materials promise drug companies that they will build brand loyalty and prescription renewals.

Read more on FTCR’s Letter

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