Doctors push back on drug company data mining
Three weeks ago, a federal judge ruled that New Hampshire's ban on drug company data mining was unconstitutional.
As I learned when I worked in pharmaceutical advertising, the prescribing report is one of the most powerful tools in a sales rep's arsenal. I used to write the canned scripts that helped them turn those numbers into prescriptions.
Drug salesmen walk into doctors' offices knowing exactly how many prescriptions that doctor for which drugs. Often, doctors don't even realize that the rep has their complete prescribing stats. The reps use this information to strong-arm doctors into prescribing more of their medications.
A favored tactic is to make the doctor conversationally commit to prescribing the rep's drug more frequently. Doctors wouldn't be so quick to say "yeah, yeah, how 'bout a penlight?" if they realized that the rep can track whether they follow through or not.
Despite the legal setback, opponents of the practice haven't given up the fight.
"We don't like the practice, and we want it to stop," said Jean Silver-Isenstadt, executive director of the National Physicians Alliance, a two-year-old group with 10,000 members, most of them young doctors in training. (Thakkar is on the group's board of directors.) "We think it's a contaminant to the doctor-patient relationship, and it's driving up costs."
The American Medical Association, a larger and far more established group, makes millions of dollars each year by helping data-mining companies link prescribing data to individual physicians. It does so by licensing access to the AMA Physician Masterfile, a database containing names, birth dates, educational background, specialties and addresses for more than 800,000 doctors. [WaPo]
New Hampshire plans to appeal the federal court ruling.