Massachusetts should ban prescription drug data mining. This week, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing has the opportunity to get us one step closer to that ban. S. 17/H. 109 will prevent pharmaceutical companies from buying doctors’ prescribing records from pharmacies and using that information to target their marketing to physicians (check out this video for an explanation).
As the US District Court said: “[c]oincident with the phenomenon of ‘data mining,’ pharmaceutical industry spending on direct marketing has increased exponentially.” The pharmaceutical industry spends approximately $30 billion (that’s more than the state’s annual budget) a year to promote its drugs. It spends about half of that developing new drugs and treatments. Why does it spend this kind of money? Because it works. Data mining can boost overall drug profits 3 percentage points and sales of new-to-market drugs by 30%.
The detailers walk into doctors’ offices with the doctor’s profiles in hand to fine tune their message. Detailers rely on this information and find it critical to ‘making the sale’. The companies spend money now on marketing because they get a huge return on their investment. The ban on data mining will change that. By banning data mining, we remove the ability of industry detailers to be so targeted in their pitch. The sales detailers will be forced to be more generic and objective in the information they present to prescribers because they will no longer have access to our data-mined information. The result is that there will be less prescribing of new, costly drugs and better treatment for patients. Vermont and New Hampshire predict their bans will produce savings of 1% or more off of their drug costs- not too shabby when we are looking at any way to cut health care costs.
The right care at the right price- good for patients and good for the state.
-Georgia J. Maheras