February 26, 2024

The buying and selling of MD prescription data

Fancy having your prescription data sold to pharmaceutical corporations?

Fancy having your prescription data sold to pharmaceutical corporations? Well, it happens. Over the past 20 years numerous medical statistics companies have attempted, in various ways, to buy and sell prescription information. The latest attempt was in Australia.

Many Australian doctors this week received letters from data experts IMS Health, indicating that they had purchased prescription information from pharmacies and planned to sell this data to external organisations. “Our clients may be provided with details of your name, contact details and area of speciality,” the letter said, adding that doctors could opt out if they chose.

After a deluge of complaints, IMS issued a statement indicating that it would only sell on de-identified information. “We are… taking immediate action to correct this and are re-issuing the letter to medical practitioners,” a company spokesman said. “We are committed to protecting individual privacy.”

Health experts were alarmed. “I’m very concerned and I think every Australian would be concerned,” said Australian Consumer Health Forum chief executive Carol Bennett. “There needs to be informed consent by the parties involved, not an opt-out system.”

IMS Health has been widely criticised for similar practices in the US. It fought, and eventually won, a protracted legal battle against legislation in Vermont prohibiting the sale, disclosure and use of prescription records. 

Xavier Symons
Creative commons
medical records