One of the ways to make health care more efficient is to store patient medical data on computers. But it turns out that data isn’t just being used by your doctor. It’s being sold to drug companies.
Your name has to be removed of course, that’s the law, but your data is fair game.
The drug companies say it helps them improve treatment. But Harvard Researcher Adam Tanner found that it’s also used as a pretty effective sales tool.
Because while your name may not be part of the data, your doctor’s name is. It means a drug company can look up your doctor and see which drugs he’s been prescribing.
“They know that your doctor, Doctor Jones, typically prescribes drug A and the company that is drug company B will send a sales representative, give free samples and maybe take the doctor out to lunch and try to convince that doctor, ‘Hey, we’re a great drug B.'”
This is real-time data, so that your next blood test could trigger a sales call!
“It’s possible that if you test positive for a new disease on Thursday and you’re going to see the doctor on Tuesday, a drug rep. will show up at that doctor’s office on Monday and try to convince them of how great their new product on the market is.”
Now it’s true that new product from company B might be better for you, but it also might be a lot more expensive when a cheap generic would do just as well.
Tanner says he is not trying to ban the use of anonymous patient data.
“There are many fine medical researchers and people trying to use this information to advance science.”
But before it’s used to try to sell us a certain drug, Tanner thinks the rules should be changed so that we have to grant permission first.