Doctors Testify in Favor of Bill Restricting Drug Companies’ Access to Prescription Information
At a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, doctors from around the state testified in favor of a bill (AB 262) that would allow them to place themselves on a list that would prohibit drug companies from using information about their prescription habits in marketing, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rapaport, Sacramento Bee, 3/10). The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Wilma Chan (D-Oakland), would establish a "do not sell" list that would prohibit pharmacies from disclosing prescribing information to third-party vendors for doctors who ask to be included on the list (California Healthline, 2/13). The bill would not block disclosures of doctors' prescribing information for public health research. Currently, doctors, unlike patients, have no specific rights to privacy, allowing pharmacies to collect data on the estimated 260 million prescriptions that physicians write each year, the Bee reports. Drug companies can buy that data, identify individual doctors and the drugs they supply, then create sales efforts targeted at the individual doctor, which is known as "detailing." Steve Thompson, lobbyist for the California Medical Association, which is cosponsoring the bill, said that the estimated $1.5 billion drug companies spend each year in California on physician detailing and marketing "harms patients because it encourages doctors to use expensive brand name drugs even when cheaper generic equivalents exist," the Bee reports. "This is about physicians' right to privacy, but this is also about stopping a practice that is disadvantageous to patients," he added. However, Kassy Perry, a spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said, "Manufacturers use the data to target specific physicians with drug safety information, notify doctors about recalled drugs and identify certain physicians for participation in clinical trials" (Sacramento Bee, 3/10).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.