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Pharmaceutical Companies Use Rx Data Mining to Boost Sales Tactics, Patient Advocates Argue

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When your doctor prescribes you a medication you probably expect that the information stays between you, the doctor, and your insurance company. However, prescription data miners are changing that dynamic in scary ways: by spying on your prescription data they are able to provide pharmaceutical companies with information to entice doctors to prescribe their medications more frequently. In fact, pharmaceutical companies are able to learn how to “fine-tune” their messages so that when a sales-rep calls a doctor, they are able to give a good pitch. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies can entice doctors to prescribe their medications with free samples of drugs. While the individual identities of patients is not disclosed in data mining, government officials are concerned about doctors’ decision-making becoming distorted because of the new sales tactics of pharmaceutical companies with access to prescription information.

The process of prescription data mining begins with medical data firms. Medical data firms have access to billions of prescription records, which they purchase from pharmacies and health insurers who have physician data from the American Medical Association, as well as other sources. They then are able to sell this information to pharmaceutical companies. According to critics, the end result is that drug companies are able to sell their newest and costliest medications, not necessarily the most effective medications.

Patient advocates and government officials are also concerned about the interference in the patient-doctor relationship, as well as increased spending on expensive drugs. However, data miners argue that they are actually helping contain the cost of prescription medications by improving quality and by quickly providing doctors with information on which drugs work best.

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  1. Lisa Lindell says:
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    This is a disgusting practice, and illegal in at least one state, New Hampshire. The nefarious pharmacies that participate in this, such as CVS/CAREMARK also engage in other unethical practices. Find out why the Attorney General in CT is suing CVS/CAREMARK. http://www.theday.com/article/20091201/BIZ02/312019925/1018
    See also a recent news story about CVS/CAREMARK that aired in Texas for yet even more shady business habits: http://www.khou.com/news/investigative/Mega-Healthcare-Merger-puts-patients-at-risk–br—71969212.html