States, Consumer Advocates Challenge Rx Data Mining

Andrew Zajac reports:

When your doctors writes you a prescription, that’s just between you, your doctor, and maybe your health insurance company–right?

Wrong. As things stand now, the pharmaceutical companies that make those prescription drugs are also looking over the doctor’s shoulder, keeping track of how many prescriptions for whose drugs the individual physician is writing.

And that data on the prescribing habits of thousands of doctors has become a powerful sales and marketing tool for the pharmaceutical industry, but also a source of growing concern among some elected officials, healthcare advocates and legal authorities.

[…]

What worries some government officials and patient advocates is that sales tactics keyed to an individual doctor’s prescribing preferences may distort decision-making. That’s especially likely, the critics say, when many doctors have trouble finding time to examine a plethora of studies and weigh the results carefully. And, given the rising concern over costs, they say, free samples or other inducements could influence decisions for non-medical reasons.

The practice is known as “prescription data mining.” Medical data firms annually blend several billion prescription records purchased from pharmacies and health insurers with physician data from the American Medical Association and other sources and sell the results to drug companies.

Read more in the Baltimore Sun.

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