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Pharma Data Mining Restriction Options Available

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 4, 2011

But doctors and others say that such practices boost the sale of more expensive brand-name drugs, thereby raising healthcare costs, and jeopardizes patient safety by promoting new drugs about which safety and efficacy data are limited, Mello and Messing wrote. It also may violate patient and physician privacy.

The Vermont law, which the court struck down in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc. on grounds that it violated the right to free speech, prohibited pharmacies and PDIs from selling, licensing, or exchanging prescriber drug information or using it to promote pharmaceutical products. Two similar laws in Maine and New Hampshire are expected to be challenged or to fall next as a result of the high court ruling.

The AMA allows doctors to exercise the AMA's Physician Data Restriction Program, which allows doctors to withhold their prescribing practice data from the pharmaceutical sales reps.

However, to date, Mello and Messing wrote, "few physicians (approximately 4%) have signed up for the PDRP, perhaps because the AMA's financial interests cut against strongly promoting the program. The AMA realizes substantial revenue from the sale of physicians' professional data, and widespread physician opt-out would reduce the usefulness of the data to PDIS."

Asked for a comment, a spokesman for the AMA declined, but sent its June 23 statement, issued after the Supreme Court ruling in the Vermont case. That statement urged doctors who don't want their data shared with pharmaceutical detailers to use the PDRP.

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