How Much of Your Prescription Drug Use is Private?

In a first step to retain some privacy of your records at your pharmacy, the Supreme Court struck down a Vermont state law that allowed your personal information to be available to drug makers. In my opinion they didn’t go far enough. In the past, pharmaceutical companies have been allowed to use a form of marketing called ‘detailing’. Detailing is using information received from pharmacies concerning which doctors prescribe the individual companies’ drugs. This allowed them to market to the doctors they now know as prescribers of their products. The new law allows drug companies to market their products in a more limited fashion without being privileged to the names of individual doctors.
Marketing to individual doctors by drug companies has been a point of contention with patients for a long time. You have seen (and perhaps waited for) the drug representatives in your own doctor’s office with their bags of goodies and free samples offered to the physician as incentives to prescribe their latest medications. You no doubt have also seen the numerous items displayed around the office with the signature of a pharmaceutical company or colorful pictures of their newest drugs. Recently, as I waited for my appointment, a pharmaceutical representation arrived with six boxes of pizza which would be lunch for the entire staff as soon as they rushed me and others who waited for our 10-minute visits with the doctor.
We all have to wonder how much influence these free items have when the doctor opens his or her prescription pad in choosing which drugs to send home with us.


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