My opinion: While I do agree that there are some benefits that arise from pill tracking, I can't help but feel that the drug companies are using a lot of aggressive tactics to reach out to doctors. First of all, if might be considered unethical to release information regarding the patients' ethnicities and income levels. However, the bigger issue here is about the money. I'm not exactly sure how drug companies extend their reach beyond the databases, but perhaps they try to visit doctors who aren't selling their drugs, and doctors whose patients aren't refilling their drugs. This allows them to basically map out their region of control across the entire country. Do companies in other industries have the same opportunities? Also, are there review board that check upon a doctor's record to see if his or her patients are taking their medication? If an inside source does this, then the databases may still come to good use while preventing the pharmaceutical industry from advertising to doctors. Feel free to comment.
Pills Tracked From Doctor to Patient to Aid Drug Marketing
By KATIE THOMAS
Published: May 16, 2013 120 Comments
In the old days, sales representatives from drug companies would chat up local pharmacists to learn what drugs doctors were prescribing. Now such shoulder-rubbing is becoming a quaint memory — thanks to vast databases of patient and doctor information being used by pharmaceutical companies to market drugs.
The information allows drug makers to know which drugs a doctor is prescribing and how that compares to a colleague across town. They know whether patients are filling their prescriptions — and refilling them on time. They know details of patients’ medical conditions and lab tests, and sometimes even their age, income and ethnic backgrounds.
The result, said one marketing consultant, is what would happen if Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman met up with the data whizzes of Michael Lewis’s “Moneyball.” “There’s a group of geeks, if you will, who are running the numbers and helping the sales guys be much more efficient,” said Chris Wright, managing director of ZS Associates, which conducts such analyses for pharmaceutical companies.
Drug makers say they are putting the information to good use, by helping a doctor improve the chances that their patients take their medications as prescribed, or making sure they are prescribing the right drug to the right patients.
Some doctors, however, expressed discomfort with the idea of sensitive data being used to sell drugs, even though federal law requires that any personally identifiable information be removed. “I think the doctors tend not to be aware of the depths to which they are being analyzed and studied by people trying to sell them drugs and other medical products,” said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a pioneer of programs for doctors aimed at counteracting the marketing efforts of drug makers. “Almost by definition, a lot of this stuff happens under the radar — there may be a sales pitch, but the doctor may not know that sales pitch is being informed by their own prescribing patterns.”