New Hampshire is scheduled to vote today on a state measure that would crack down on the practice of collecting and selling individual physician's prescription data to pharmaceutical companies for use by sales reps, according to this article in the New York Times. It says Arizona and West Virginia are also considering similar measures. To try to avoid a ban on prescription sales, the American Medical Association is planning to give docs the ability to opt out of having their data distributed: "The new measure is viewed as a self-policing move that the drug industry and the A.M.A., which has lucrative with data-mining companies, hope will keep states from banning sales of prescription data altogether." One doctor quoted in the article said:
- "I think it adds to the potential that physicians could be targeted one way or another for perks," said Dr. Drexler, alluding to the practice by drug companies of deciding which doctors to reward with the gifts, meals and other perks that sales representatives have dangled over the years, or to gauge which physicians might be worthy of signing up as paid speakers or consultants.
While I understand how useful that data must be to pharma sales reps, I have to agree with the good doc on this one. As a consumer, I don't like those store discount cards that track your purchases and give you discounts and coupons based on what you buy—frankly, I don't want everyone from CVS and Ace Hardware to know all about my purchasing habits so they can sell more effectively to me. I don't see this as all that different, except that it's more covert (the article says that a quarter of physicians don't even know the reps have their prescribing data).
Update: The New Hampshire Senate voted 22-0 to pass the bill. (See the Wall Street Journal for more.)