Data Mining By Drug Companies Raises Concern

The Los Angeles Times examines a practice called data mining in which drug companies track how doctors prescribe medications by obtaining data from pharmacies and health insurers. "That information has become not just a powerful sales and marketing tool for the pharmaceutical industry but also a source of growing concern among some elected officials, healthcare advocates and legal authorities...," the Times reports. "Knowing in detail what individual doctors are prescribing enables drug makers to fine-tune their messages when sales reps call on doctors. They can lobby for use of an alternative drug made by their own company, for instance, bolstering the pitch with specially selected research data or free samples."

Government officials and patient advocates worry that data mining "may distort decision-making and fuel prescribing of new, high-cost drugs. Legislation limiting or outlawing the practice has been passed in three states, has been considered in at least 20 others in recent years and has even been floated by federal lawmakers. ... Legislation requiring drug makers and other health product providers to disclose gifts, travel, entertainment and other items given to physicians has been folded into both the House and Senate versions of the healthcare overhaul bill" (Zajac, 12/14).

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