Next time you take medicine, consider the surprisingly lucrative and circuitous path of that scrap of paper known as a drug prescription form. After the pharmacy fills your order, it sells information about your drug and doctorthough not necessarily about youto a health data company, such as IMS Health, Verispan and Wolters Kluwer. There, powerful computers create a veritable scorecard of physicians' drug preferences by combining your transaction with millions of others from doctors and pharmacies nationwide. Producing this powerful data is a long-standing cottage industry worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year, employing at least 2,000 people in the Philadelphia region, according to the local companies. And now it's facing its biggest threat in years.
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