Tuesday, August 08, 2006

How to Prevent Drug Reps From Seeing Your Personal Prescribing Records

Since July 1 of this year, the AMA has permitted physicians (both members and nonmembers) to "opt out" of having their personal medication prescribing records provided to pharmaceutical companies. Actually the AMA will still continue to send the information but if one opts out, the pharmaceutical companies "promise" they will keep it away from their drug reps and only use it for "research purposes".

Many physicians oppose the release of such information as they consider it a breach of their personal privacy. However, one survey demonstrated that only 34% of physicians are even aware that such information is compiled by the AMA (thanks to Dr. Kevin).

This new opt out plan is the result of outrage from physicians upon discovering this violation. The AMA apparently makes a great deal of money from selling this database to a company called IMS Health, a data-mining company that in turn sells it to drug companies for strictly marketing purposes.

Clearly, despite the AMA's constituency's stated opposition to this violation of basic privacy, they wish to maintain this revenue stream. Otherwise, 1) they would have instead instituted an "opt IN" policy and 2) they would have gone to greater lengths to advertise this new program and make it easier to execute. I would therefore like to take this opportunity to explain to interested physicians how this is actually done.

Certainly the AMA doesn't want you to know!

  1. Go to the appropriate page on the AMA website.
  2. Go to the bottom of this page and click on the link with this name: "Set up a log-in account to access the Prescribing Data Information Center" (I'm not including the URL within the link because you can't bypass step 1).
  3. Set up a log-in account by following the directions (you don't have to be an AMA member).
  4. Click on "continue to the page you requested." This will bring you to a page entitled "Prescribing Data Information Center".
  5. Read the annoying attempt to dissuade you from your decision. Then click "Accept" followed by "Submit Form".
  6. Check off your reasons for being angry at the AMA from the choices provided.
  7. Leave a suitably nasty comment in the box provided. Mine was "I think it is reprehensible that the AMA should be committing such an obvious privacy violation and in such a surreptitious manner. The AMA's management should be ashamed of itself." Have fun! Be creative! Then click "Submit Form".
  8. Read and understand the following disclosure:

"Pharmaceutical manufacturers will be required to check the Prescribing Data Restriction Program database quarterly. Once they check the database, due to various pharmaceutical data cycles, it may take up to an additional 90 days for a pharmaceutical company to restrict sales representatives from having access to your individual prescribing data."

  1. Ponder why we have to trust the drug companies to keep the data from their sales reps since the AMA will continue to send it to them (via IMS Health).

Have a nice day.


Blogger Jenny said...

I'm just a patient, and caretaker of my son who is a liver transplant patient, not a professional. Yet I need to comment. It makes me absolutely sick to think that our records are out there like this! I cannot stand seeing these little "pretty people" reps waltz in and out of the office as I sit in the waiting room. They expect me to sit for even longer while they take up my appointment time with the doctor? It makes me so angry. And to know our information--which we are told is private--is being handed out like candy by the AMA. Yuck!

August 08, 2006 9:41 PM  
Blogger The Medicine Man said...

Jenny, if it's any consolation, the prescribing data of individual physicians that is sent to the drug companies is aggregate data. No patient names are identified to the drug companies. For pharmacies to provide such information to data-miners would be a violation of federal privacy laws.

So at least rest assured that your son's (and your) medication records are still confidential.

As for your characterization of drug reps as "little pretty people", well that just made me smile!

Take care,

August 09, 2006 8:47 AM  
Blogger Jenny said...

With all the privacy rights papers we have to sign now any time we visit a new office, I was wondering how the AMA would be able to send names out like that. ;)
Still, I hate being reduced to just another figure, an object looked at to figure out how the mighty powers can make more money.
I'm so glad you have put this "out there" for people to see and understand what is happening.
--And I absolutely love your suggestions on how professionals can handle this. :) Thank you.

August 09, 2006 4:11 PM  
Blogger Kannan said...

California Medicine Man,

Thanks for this post. I was one of the 66% who didn't know about this. It took me 3 minutes to follow your detailed instructions. And 3 minutes to compose my "suitably nasty comment":

"I believe that any pharmaceutical representative "detailing" a doctor is wrong, pure and simple. I can afford my own lunch, thank you very much. And if I want to look up the evidence, there is JAMA or NEJM for me -- not glossy little graphs displaying misleading statistics. I really don't think that we win as an Association by helping pharma mislead us."

September 03, 2006 6:49 AM  

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