NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Doctors Want Some Privacy For Their Prescription Pads

January 9, 2001

According to the American Medical Association, physicians are concerned about the widespread availability of detailed information about the prescriptions they write. They have asked the AMA to look for legal recourses to stop the information flow.

Among their complaints:

  • Drug companies are able to get information on the number of prescriptions they write for a specific drug.
  • Patients often receive marketing information related to a condition for which they recently received a prescription.
  • Pharmacies and other third parties are releasing information about the patients who get those prescriptions.
  • Health Maintenance Organizations can use information to determine whether the doctor stayed within the HMO's guidelines on how many generic drugs he or she prescribes.

The exchange of prescribing information, often between pharmacies and drug companies and pharmacies and insurance companies, violates the doctor-patient relationship and it often violates the doctor's and the patient's privacy, physicians say.

Over the next several months the AMA will look for legal options to:

  • Prevent drug companies from having access to physician prescribing patterns.
  • Prevent pharmacies and third-party payers from releasing the physician-specific information.
  • Protect patients and physicians from using prescribing pattern information by pharmaceutical firms.
  • Prevent anyone from using Drug Enforcement Administration numbers -- which can be used to identify which authorized physician wrote which prescription -- as pharmaceutical marketing tools.

Source: Tanya Albert, "Doctors ask AMA to assure some privacy for their prescription pads," American Medical News, December 25, 2000.


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