Another disgusting low by Big Pharma

Another (new to me–but not to the industry) unethical creepy thing that Big Pharma is doing—from Carlat Psychiatry Blog:

If you haven’t heard about prescription data-mining yet, here’s a short course. When I was a hired gun speaker for Wyeth back in 2002, drug reps would book me speaking gigs at primary care doctor’s offices. My job was simple: say whatever I possibly could to get doctors to prescribe more Effexor XR.

Before each of these “Lunch ‘n Learns,” as they are called, the rep would fax me a little cheat sheet about the doctor we’d be visiting. This sheet spelled out exactly how many prescriptions for which antidepressants this doctor was writing. Doctors who wrote too much Celexa and Zoloft, and not enough Effexor, were crucial “targets,” and I was implicitly encouraged to give these misguided doctors a particularly hard sell.

How did the reps get such detailed information? Since the 1990s, drug companies, pharmacy information companies (such as Verispan and IMS) and the AMA have been collaborating in packaging doctor’s prescription information and using it to help companies more efficiently sell their drugs. Companies like Verispan buy prescription info from local pharmacies, then they purchase identifying data on all us doctors from the AMA (which makes over $40 million a year by leasing out its physician Masterfile), and finally they turn around and sell the whole package to the highest-bidding drug companies.

10 thoughts on “Another disgusting low by Big Pharma

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  1. and seriously, the cost of the drugs people buy is due, in part to the cost of that kind of tracking, along with the perks they give the docs and the advertising they do. They pass the cost for their moneymaking schemes right on to insurance companies and consumers. It’s totally evil.

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  2. I’ll see about buying it. I now have about 10-15 books I’ve bought within the last year–maybe more. I buy them used on Amazon and they usually don’t cost that much, but it’s getting insane and my butt is usually stuck to this chair with my computer on my lap. I read bits and pieces of books but I get pulled back to the computer.

    My husband has agreed that we can buy a bookshelf for the only space in the entire house that can hold another piece of furniture. (we live in a 750 sq ft home) I need a home for these books and our other bookshelf is overflowing.

    Anyway–if I have them all in one place where I can find them. (finding them is key–they are scattered all over the place and I don’t even remember what I’ve bought anymore) I figure I might go to the book shelf and regularly read “bits and pieces” until I get through most of them!!

    Okay you started something here…ugh! Bookshelf–we rambled through a monstrous used furniture warehouse recently and didn’t find something to fit the space. My husband may build something–but he has so much to do.

    Okay…I’ll go see if there is a cheap copy of Gen Rx available at Amazon!

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  3. G, didn’t you say you read Generation Rx? The book talks about this in detail. It’s been going on for years. They’ve got a very sophisticated system for tracking this stuff and putting pressure on docs to write more scripts for specific drugs.

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  4. Strangely enough (really not so strange) I already assumed all pharma companies had this information—without your telling me! I think the worst when it comes to pharmaceutical companies and I figured all of them would have access.

    But thanks for pointing that out to all the readers of this blog and confirming my suspicion.

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  5. All pharma companies buy this information. It is available on any prescribed drug provided it is filled by a pharmacy (drugs administered in a hospital or clinic would not be included). Therefore, every pharma company knows the ‘script data’ for their drugs. Typically it is delayed by a quarter or two but it is always known. It can be broken down by zip code. As the quote above states this allows the companies to craft ‘talking points’ for drug reps or paid doctors (hired guns) for specific doctors since the AMA data is overlaid with the script data and conclusions about writing habits are therefore made without violating HIPPA. So…the truth is that it is not just the highest bidder that has this information rather, every pharma compainy has this information it is considered a cost of doing business.

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