In the multi-billion dollar world of pharmaceutical sales, the pharmaceutical industry (with the go-ahead from the AMA) joins you and your patient in the examination room…
A [pharmaceutical] representative can quickly access a breakdown of pharmaceuticals prescribed by any physician on a handheld computer, enabling that representative to deliver a tailored marketing pitch to physicians selected for their current prescribing habits.
How do pharmaceutical companies obtain such detailed prescribing data? Currently, retail pharmacies sell de-identified patient prescription records with limited physician identifiers to data intermediaries known as health information organizations (HIOs). By purchasing a comprehensive database of U.S. physicians from the American Medical Association (AMA), HIOs can link individual physicians to prescription records by using identifiers common to the pharmacy databases and the AMA database, such as a physician’s U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and medical license numbers. They also can track a physician’s demographic and practice characteristics. The HIOs build prescribing profiles on the basis of these linked databases and sell them to pharmaceutical companies, which use the profiles to identify sales targets and plan detailing visits.
This practice continues unabated, much to the financial benefit of Big Pharma and the AMA, despite physicians’ disapproval:
Many physicians believe that using prescribing profiles in commercial marketing crosses a line of acceptability. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that only 60% of physicians were aware that drug companies have access to physician-specific prescribing data. When they were told of the practice, 74% disapproved. A physician survey commissioned by the AMA found similar levels of awareness (77%) and disapproval (66%). Anecdotes also confirm the survey findings, with one physician recently commenting, “It makes me feel like a rat in a maze when they put little nibblets in front of me to see if I’ll prescribe their drug”.
This is yet another staggering example of the ubiquitous presence of Big Pharma within and throughout medicine. With every prescription written, with every life-saving medication dispensed, with every sacred patient-physician relationship affirmed, Big Pharma is watching. For a more visual interpretation, click here.
There is a place for business and there is a place for privacy. Between patient and physician, there is no place for Pharma.