PHARMACY PRIVACY: Nat’l Assoc. Pushes New Controls
"[A]larmed that control of prescription records is being taken out of the hands of patients, doctors and pharmacists," a group of state pharmacy regulators has adopted a series of privacy guidelines to protect confidentiality of patient medical data. The Washington Post notes recent increases in prescription benefit management companies and HMOs collecting and analyzing electronically "prescription records of millions of people to improve care, contain medical costs and sell more drugs." The new guidelines, promulgated by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, emphasize that full disclosure and informed consent are essential before patients can be enrolled in programs to ensure they are taking their medication correctly, switch them to cheaper medications or directly market drugs based on their prescription data. The "guidelines also urge state regulators to seek more authority to oversee the practices of pharmacy benefit managers, which face few rules about how they use [prescription] data on behalf of health plans." The recommendations will "serve as a model next year for state efforts to bolster the confidentiality of prescription records."
The Post reports that pharmacy groups opposed the guidelines, saying they would restrict positive efforts such as drug compliance programs, which issue follow-ups to ensure patients are taking their medication correctly. Phil Schneider, spokesperson for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, argued that "even requiring explicit patient approval could harm such programs" and "imped[e] the delivery of health care services." The president of a PBM industry group vowed that his organization will "do whatever they can to oppose the proliferation of state regulations." Delbert Konnor, president of the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, said "he will push for a federal law that would preempt any state regulations" (O'Harrow Jr., 12/18).