States consider limits on medical data-mining

“Know your customer” has long been the mantra of salespeople. But this year, state lawmakers from New York to Nevada are wondering whether pharmaceutical company representatives know their physician customers too well.

Lawmakers around the country are taking a hard look at data.m.ining companies that keep detailed records on what prescription drugs are prescribed by nearly every doctor in the U.S. Their databases, updated weekly, are stripped of patient names and sold to the drug companies, who use the information to target their sales pitches to doctors.

“Most doctors really don’t know the level of detail” in the reports, said New Hampshire state Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, who sponsored a bill last year making her state the first in the nation to ban such use of the data. “I would say most doctors are shocked when they hear that drug reps really know everything they’ve written.”

The largest health data.m.ining company, IMS Health, joined with Verispan LLC to challenge the New Hampshire law in federal court. A decision is pending after the trial ended Feb. 5. In Canada, IMS also has challenged a 2001 Alberta ban on releasing doctors’ names.

Besides Nevada and New York, other states that have considered similar bills this year include Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Texas. A federal bill was proposed last year, but died in committee.

{The reporter does not know that the corporations that have been data mining Americans’ prescription records daily for over a decade DO use and sell identifiable patient names and prescriptions too, not just the names of prescribing physicians.  Patient prescription records are used and sold to insurers for underwriting and to major employers. The nation’s identifiable prescription records are being data mined and sold for many purposes—not just marketing to physicians–and the identities of patients are NOT protected. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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