One of these days there may be a lawsuit or some ruling that could finally get into profiteering that goes on with selling consumer prescription data.  What is interesting is over the years on how this has evolved.  From the consumer stand point it’s not so much a worry or concern that the drug companies have it, but rather all the other sources that buy the information.  It makes Pharma use look small by comparison.  Walgreens said their purchased prescription files" are intangible assets worth $749 million, so there’s a lot of selling going on here. 

Here are 2 companies that sell prescription data and profiling information and there’s more.  The data with additional sources and additional data trails is also getting a lot richer in content too as we now have devices such as the pill bottle that is wireless and so again there could be more data for sale. 

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“HIPAA does not give the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to directly investigate or hold accountable entities, such as pharmacy benefit managers or companies such as Ingenix and Milliman, who are not covered by HIPAA.”

The Pill Bottle That Talks To Your Cell Phone, Creates Data Reports and More…

In addition the information is for sale to health insurance companies to use for underwriting for health insurance policies so they know all your current medications when you apply for insurance.  Again with the information becoming richer and more data available, you are for sale.  Many clinical trial companies buy this information too and then there’s that “card” that you use for discounts that allows most of the information to be collected.  Health insurers may be mining this data as well and pharmacists can use the data to get pay for performance money too if they sign you up with certain wellness programs.  image

UnitedHealthCare To Use Data Mining Algorithms On Claim Data To Look For Those At “Risk” of Developing Diabetes – Walgreens and the YMCA Benefit With Pay for Performance Dollars to Promote and Supply The Tools

In addition the insurers and drug stores are using different efforts to enforce compliance too.  The post below tells a tale of my mother with Walgreens telling her she needs to check her glucose 3 times a day when she has done it twice a day for 15 years and knows the routine.  She had to literally fight to get off the automated refill algorithm that would push out 3 refills of glucose strips.  This get a bit insane.  Again, that information on how many glucose strips she uses is for sale.  It’s all about data, data and more data for sale and profit. 

Compliance Police Out In Force for Seniors–Health Plans and Drug Stores Making Phone Calls-Business Models & Caller Behavior Sucks -A Result of Pay for Performance Efforts?

A lot of entities sell data and the AMA I read somewhere makes about $40 million on selling data they collect on doctors and data with other interests.  Again, one day someone may finally get this right and look beyond just Pharma’s use as I am thinking that portion may be shrinking a bit with fewer new drugs coming out and it may be taking a second place compared to everywhere else your prescription data is sold.  BD 

Unlike suits that focus on patient privacy, the plaintiffs accuse Walgreen of depriving them of the commercial value of their own prescription information.

According to the suit, brought by Todd Murphy on behalf of his two daughters and the rest of the class, Walgreen sells the prescription imageinformation to data mining companies who resell it to pharmaceutical companies for marketing purposes. The practice allows drugmakers to target physicians considered high-volume prescribers and those most willing to prescribe new medications, it said.

Walgreen spokesman Robert Elfinger said the company had just learned of the lawsuit and declined to comment.

As a measure of the information's value, the suit cites Walgreen's 2010 annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which lists "purchased prescription files" as intangible assets worth $749 million.

The focus of the latest suit, filed on Tuesday, shifts from privacy to unlawful business practices. Without identifying individuals, Walgreen sells data that includes the patient's sex, age group, state, the ID number of the prescribing doctor and the name of the drug.

Walgreen accused of selling patient data | Reuters

CVS violated the privacy and rights of consumers by sending letters to customers’ physicians that promoted specific medications, according toimage a complaint filed March 7 in state court in Philadelphia. CVS allegedly identified consumers by name, date of birth and medications taken, drawing on information obtained through CVS pharmacy services.

CVS was paid for the promotion of competing drugs by Merck & Co., AstraZeneca Plc (AZN) and Bayer AG (BAYN), according to the complaint filed by Richboro, Pennsylvania, resident Arthur Steinberg and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund.


  1. Just a new wrinkle. CVS has now implemented a new point of sale system that requires you with no exceptions to give them permission to release your "HEALTH RECORD" not your purchase, to a 3 party. This means if they give you a discount anyone of their advertisers who paid can have your information at any time. I guess they were tired of lawsuits.


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