The Massachusetts Medical Society presented testimony to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Health Care Financing to support state legislation to prevent the sale or transfer of data regarding prescribing practices for commercial purposes. The Society supports Massachusetts House Bills 110,109 that would ban the practice of data mining and supports Senate bills 17 and 19 to protect the confidentiality of patient prescription records. The medical society believes that prescribing data should not be shared with any individual group or corporation whose motive is not solely to improve healthcare delivery.
In general, the proposed bills would protect the privacy of prescriptions for patients since patients could possibly be identified by databases being cross referenced. Also, the Society notes that it is also important to protect physicians from aggressive sales and marketing tactics and thinks that exceptions to complete confidentiality should be limited to the legitimate review of quality care issues and when processing claims for insurance purposes.
Currently, pharmaceutical companies purchase the prescribing records of physicians and other healthcare professionals without the consent of the prescriber or the patient. According to the medical society, this data is then used to target marketing aimed at specific prescribers in order to promote their increased use of particular brand name pharmaceuticals.
Legislation aimed at banning this practice has already been enacted in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont with similar legislation under consideration in many other states. The New Hampshire legislation which had been the subject of extensive litigation was recently upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals (1st Circuit) in the case of IMS Health Inc. v. Ayotte), citing the state’s legitimate interest in containing the cost of prescription drugs.