Restrictions on Doctor Prescribing Information Approved
The American Medical Association has announced that on July 1 physicians can begin to restrict access to information about their prescription practices for pharmaceutical company sales representatives, the New York Times reports.
Under the new policy, physicians listed in an AMA database called Masterfile can indicate in a new online registry that pharmaceutical company sales representatives should not have access to such information for three years. Masterfile includes information on about one million U.S. medical school graduates and foreign medical school graduates licensed in the U.S.
According to the Times, pharmaceutical company sales representatives can use information "showing which physicians are prescribing what drugs" to "pressure a doctor to write more prescriptions for a name-brand medicine or fewer orders for a competitors' drug." However, according to many physicians, use of such information by pharmaceutical company sales representatives amounts to "an intrusion into the way they practice medicine" and "feeds overzealous sales practices," the Times reports.
A Gallup poll conducted for AMA in 2004 found that two-thirds of physicians oppose access to such information for pharmaceutical company sales representatives and that 25% were unaware the representatives had access.
In addition, the poll found that 77% of respondents supported a program under which physicians could restrict access to such information for pharmaceutical company sales representatives.
The new AMA policy "is viewed as a self-policing move that the drug industry and AMA, which has lucrative contracts with data-mining companies, hope will keep states from banning sales of prescription data altogether," the Times reports.
IMS Health, a market research company that specializes in the pharmaceutical industry, and competitors currently pay AMA for access to information in Masterfile.
Lawmakers in some states -- such as Arizona, New Hampshire and West Virginia -- have introduced bills that would regulate or eliminate the practice (Saul, New York Times, 5/4).