Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Drug-sales-representative computerizeddata on what physicians are prescribingis coming under attack by some physicians.The data gathering can help theestimated 90,000 drug-company representativesinfluence physicians to writemore prescriptions for a brand name drugor fewer scripts for a competitor's drug.

New Hampshire, Arizona, Hawaii, andWest Virginia have all introduced separatelegislation to squash the practice. In anattempt to mollify physicians and put offstate restrictions, the American MedicalAssociation (AMA) plans to give individualphysicians the option of declaring theirprescription records off limits to drugsales representatives.

In California, one of the states thatraised complaints about the practice, agroup of physicians is starting a pilot programunder which physicians who opt outof the AMA system will get comparisonsof their prescribing patterns in 17 classesfrom the data companies.

State Rep Cindy Rosenwald (D), leadsponsor of New Hampshire's bill, said thatshe did not feel the AMA's self-policingmeasure would provide sufficient protection.Even if physicians do not permit theirprescription records to be available todrug-sales representatives, the informationwould still be sold to drug companiesfor marketing and research purposes,Rosenwald said. The drug companieswould have to be trusted not to share thedata with their sales staff, she added.

A 2004 Gallup poll found that two thirdsof physicians surveyed were against therelease of such data to sales representatives,and that 77% believed that an optoutprogram would ease concerns aboutthe data release. Nearly 25% of the physicians,however, were unaware that thepharmaceutical industry could obtain theinformation.