Hands Off Prescribing Data, Says Vermont

Vermont is considering a new bill that would make it the second state in the country to ban the sale of physician prescribing data. The state would be keeping up with its next-door neighbor–New Hampshire’s eight-month-old Prescription Confidentiality Law is currently being challenged in a court case there. Data companies IMS Health and Verispan brought the suit, arguing that law compromises their freedom of speech.
Like the New Hampshire law, Vermont’s bill would bar third-party entities like pharmacists, insurers, and data-collection companies from selling prescription data “for any commercial purpose”–namely the marketing and promotion of prescription drugs. The bill is intended to keep the data away from drug reps, who use it to tailor their sales calls to individual physicians.
But Vermont is also adding another provision to prevent “unconscionable pricing” of prescription drugs. “Unconscionable” is defined as a wholesale price that is more than 30 percent higher than the price available to federal agencies, the state’s Healthy Vermonters program, or the “most favored purchase price.”
The state’s Senate Finance Committee has so far endorsed the bill, and the Health and Welfare Committee will review it next. The Vermont Medical Society–like its counterpart in New Hampshire–is also backing the bill. On the other side of the fence, a team from PhRMA is lobbying against the restrictions on drug marketing and price caps. The New Hampshire suit, which is awaiting a decision, could also have an impact on the bill’s future.
{The pharmaceutical industry is vigorously defending the illegal practice of data mining your prescriptions without consent. It is critical to note that besides using your identifiable prescription records to influence the medications your doctor, your hospital, and your health plan provide, your prescription records are data mined and sold daily to the insurance industry for underwriting not just health insurance, but life and disability insurance; and also sold to employers for decisions about hiring and promotions. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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