Lawsuit Alleges Albertsons Violated Pharmacy Customers’ Privacy Rights
Grocery store chain Albertsons and its pharmacies have used customers' prescription drug information to send letters or call customers to encourage them to renew or extend prescriptions, or in some cases change medications, according to a lawsuit filed by San Diego-based Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. According to the lawsuit, pharmaceutical firms paid Albertsons $3 to $4.50 per letter and $12 to $15 per phone call and made additional incentive payments if sales of marketed medications increased.
In addition to Albertsons, the lawsuit names as defendants 18 pharmaceutical companies, including GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Wyeth and AstraZeneca. The lawsuit claims that drug companies provided screening criteria to Albertsons to identify individuals and conditions that met a given profile.
According to the lawsuit, the program "allows Albertsons to essentially get a kickback for secretly trading its control of consumers' confidential medical information for pharmaceutical companies' enjoyment of this valuable information."
Jeffery Krinsk, an attorney for PRC, said the practice is a violation of customers' privacy rights, a deceptive business practice and a violation of state laws governing the treatment of confidential medical information.
The lawsuit seeks to prevent Albertsons from continuing the program, as well as restitution for customers.
Albertsons denied the allegations. In a statement released Thursday, the company said, "We highly value and respect the privacy of our pharmacy customers and do not sell, nor have we ever sold, their private information."
PRC Director Beth Givens said the company's statement was "literally true" but added that Albertsons sold its ability to access consumers' medical information, the Union-Tribune reports. Givens said Albertsons then used the information as part of a targeted marketing campaign, according to the Union-Tribune (Somers, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/10).
KPBS' "KPBS News" on Thursday reported on the lawsuit. The segment includes comments from Givens (Goldberg, "KPBS News," KPBS, 9/9). The complete transcript of the segment is available online. The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.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.