Patient info for sale

Randee Lonergan filled her prescriptions at the same pharmacy for years. But a month ago she was shocked to find the pharmacy closed and all her family’s medical records sold to a nearby Target store in Levittown.

Her information was sold legally because of a loophole in medical privacy law that allows pharmacies to “auction off” customer records – including prescriptions, information about medical conditions, Social Security numbers and insurance records – “to the highest bidder,” Sen. Charles Schumer said yesterday.

The practice of selling off records, Schumer said, is a nationwide problem. Federal law requires doctors to let patients know when their medical history is being shared. But the law allows pharmacies to sell patient information to other pharmacies, Schumer said.

The senator is calling on the federal Health and Human Services secretary, Michael Leavitt, to change the law to require pharmacies to notify patients before selling or transferring their records and allowing patients to opt out.

{Wait till Randee Lonergan finds out that her prescriptions have been data mined and sold daily for over a decade to insurers for underwriting health, life, and property insurance and to drug companies who pressure her doctors to switch her medicines. The secret theft and sale of the nation’s prescription records to the insurance industry and to drug companies has not yet made a big splash like the auction to Target made, but is far more damaging, because our prescription records are being used to discriminate against us by the insurance and drug industries. All 51,000 pharmacies in the US are wired for data mining despite laws in every state that require patient consent before access to or use of medical records. But the data miners are ignoring the strong state laws and medical ethics that prohibit this practice without informed consent. Every day our prescription records are data mined and sold. It is impossible to have a private prescription in the US. Even if you pay cash, you cannot stop your pharmacy from selling your prescriptions. IMS Health is one of many prescription data miners in the US. In 2005, they reported revenues of $1.75 Billion dollars from selling prescriptions to drug companies. Congress must put a stop to prescription data mining. ~ Dr. Deborah Peel, Patient Privacy Rights}

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