An amendment to the Senate health care bill would effectively ban data mining which, as you know, involves the practice of buying prescription records to target sales pitches to doctors, theAssociated Press reports. Democrats Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois say their measure will combat "harassing sales practices" and "restrain undue influence" of sales reps.
The move comes amid tremendous controversy over data mining. Vermont, for instance, passed a law restricting the sale of prescription drug info that identifies prescribers and patients for commercial marketing purposes. The effort is being challenged by IMS Health, Wolters Kluwer Health and SDI, with support from PhRMA, which contend the law hurts public access to healthcare info (back story). Last week, the New Jersey attorney general proposed restrictions on data mining (see here). New Hampshire already has restrictions, while a bill in Maine was struck down in court.
In any event, whether the Senate measure can make it into law is highly uncertain. As the AP notes, the House already passed its health reform bill, which opted to study the issue of data mining, not limit it. An IMS spokesman tells the AP that interfering with data mining "has the potential to harm patients," since the info is used by federal agencies to track patient safety. The Senate amendment, though, only bars the sale of prescribing records "for marketing purposes."
Consumer advocates say the Senate effort could raise the profile of data mining in Congress and among state lawmakers. "I think both at both federal and state levels you'll see continued momentum because it's clear the issue of drug marketing influence hasn't been addressed yet," Marcia Hams, director of prescription access at Community Catalyst, a nonprofit health care advocate, tells the AP.