HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Friday, August 10, 2007

Data Mining and Pharmaceutical Companies

Firedoglake has an interesting post on some of the recent efforts to limit gifts to doctors by drug companies.  The blog notes, however, that nothing was said about the practice of data mining  or prescription tracking by pharmaceutical companies.

I have a doctor friend who writes a lot of prescriptions for Pfizer drugs. Pfizer knows that because they track it, and the perks they offer are based on that knowledge. They aren’t just throwing out bones randomly to doctors because they have nice offices, there’s a very specific perks-for-scripts relationship at work. My friend is hired with some frequency to give “lectures” to, say, five doctor colleagues (at several thousand dollars a pop) on behalf of the pharmaceutical company and their particular drug. Even my friend acknowledges that it’s quite the racket.

There are many other ways to get money into the pockets of reliably prolific prescription writers, but the fact is that at present every time a doctor puts pen to paper he/she knows that the pharmaceutical company is watching. Without that kind of Big Brother awareness, doctors might be more cognizant of their patients’ needs first and less likely to be influenced by self-interest. Cutting the supply line of information is a critical first step.

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