Drug Companies Data-Mining Your Medicine Cabinet

It seems that even the doctor-patient relationship isn’t immune to the growing high tech practice of data mining by businesses to get a competitive advantage.

Current practices allow pharmaceutical companies to monitor how many prescriptions a doctor writes for a given drug.

Drug companies can obtain this information from pharmacies and health insurers. Number crunching this drug data allows the drug companies to track the prescriptions that are written by thousands of doctors.

This drug data is a powerful marketing and sales tool for drug companies and has also become a cause for concern among some lawmakers, consumer advocates and law professionals.

The names and identity of patients is not provided with this drug data, but detailed data on what drugs doctors prescribe allows drug companies to custom tailor their marketing messages when their sales people visit a doctor’s office.

This data mining by drug companies concerns some politicians and consumer advocates because it may bias the medical decisions of doctors.

Laws that limit or outlaw the the data mining of drug prescriptions has been passed in three states and has recently caught the attention of federal officials.

Critics of drug data mining say that it increases prescription writing for the latest and most expensive drugs with the biggest marketing budgets in place of more effective drugs.

Prescription data miners argue that all the drug data crunching helps drug companies to contain expenses and improve drug quality by giving doctors the information on which medicines work the best.

Data mining has been used by drug makers for awhile now, but rising medical costs and complaints from doctors that the prescription mining violates their privacy have fueled the fire for a legislative solution to the practice.

Even the American Medical Association has profited from the practice of medical data mining.

The AMA earned $47.6 million in 2008 by selling its information from a master database to data mining companies.

The AMA database contains the names of over 800,000 doctors, including 250,000 AMA members.

Doctors can opt out of having their information at the AMA sold by filling out a form on the AMA website. However, critics say the the opt-out process is a cumbersome hassle and so far only 24,000 doctors have opted out.

Source: LA Times