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Published on 11 December 2009

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Senate to stop drug data mining


Drug companies would no longer be able to mine pharmacy records to track which doctors are prescribing their medications, under a proposal unveiled Thursday by two Senate Democrats.

The amendment to the Senate health care bill would effectively ban pharmaceutical data mining – the drug company practice of buying prescription records to target sales pitches to doctors.

Senators Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois say the measure will combat “harassing sales practices” and “restrain undue influence” of pharmaceutical salespersons.

Companies like IMS Health Inc. and Verispan LLC have built multimillion-dollar businesses around gathering prescription data and selling the information to pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer Inc., Merck & Co. Inc. and others use the data to identify doctors who are prescribing their drugs, as well as treatments from other companies. When salespeople visit a doctor’s office they tailor their presentation to the doctor’s individual prescribing habits.

Still, the Senate measure faces an uphill climb to become law. The House of Representatives already passed its health reform bill, which opted to study the issue of data mining, not limit it.

Opponents of data mining say tightening state budgets have highlighted the role pharmaceutical marketers play in driving up health care costs.

Copyright Press Association 2009

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