Walgreen accused of selling patient data

This must be the month to sue major pharmaceutical chains for allegedly selling patient prescription information. First it was CVS. Now it’s Walgreen. Reuters Legal reports:

A lawsuit filed in California this week accuses national drug-store chain Walgreen Co of unlawfully selling medical information gleaned from patient prescriptions, another front in the battle over personal information.

Unlike suits that focus on patient privacy, the plaintiffs accuse Walgreen of depriving them of the commercial value of their own prescription information.

According to the suit, brought by Todd Murphy on behalf of his two daughters and the rest of the class, Walgreen sells the prescription information to data mining companies who resell it to pharmaceutical companies for marketing purposes.

Reuters reports on the unusual legal strategy:

Unlike suits that focus on patient privacy, the plaintiffs accuse Walgreen of depriving them of the commercial value of their own prescription information.

It’s an interesting legal approach, but given the lawyer’s track record on other lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, I’m afraid to be optimistic:

Krinsk’s law firm, Finkelstein and Krinsk, has previously sued Walgreen in Florida state court for allegedly giving pharmaceutical companies access to prescription records. The judge granted Walgreen summary judgment last September, finding no proof that the company had released patient information.

Krinsk has also sued drug retailer Longs Drugs for violating California’s Confidentiality of Medical Information Act. He said the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed that case after the judge ruled that the pharmacy’s practice of selling prescription information did not violate medical privacy and confidentiality laws.

The focus of the latest suit, filed on Tuesday, shifts from privacy to unlawful business practices. Without identifying individuals, Walgreen sells data that includes the patient’s sex, age group, state, the ID number of the prescribing doctor and the name of the drug.

Read more on PublicBroadcasting.net. Note that the allegations here are significantly different than the allegations in the lawsuit against CVS, where the plaintiffs allege that CVS used identified patient information to contact the patients’ physicians on behalf of paid sponsors to promote the sponsors’ medications.

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