Seattle pediatrician Rupin Thakkar's first inkling that the pharmaceutical industry was peering over his shoulder and into his prescription pad came in a letter from a drug representative about the generic drops Thakkar prescribes to treat infectious pinkeye. In the letter, the salesperson wrote that Thakkar was causing his patients to miss more days of school than they would if he put them on Vigamox, a more expensive brand-name medicine made by Alcon Laboratories.
Thakkar was lobbied to switch the pinkeye medicine he prescribed.
"My initial thought was 'How does she know what I'm prescribing?' " Thakkar said. "It feels intrusive ... I just feel strongly that medical encounters need to be private."
He is not alone. Many doctors object to drugmakers' common practice of contracting with data-mining companies to track exactly which medicines physicians prescribe and in what quantitiesinformation marketers and salespeople use to fine-tune their efforts.
The American Medical Association makes millions of dollars each year by helping data-mining companies link prescribing data to individual physicians. It does so by licensing access to the AMA Physician Masterfile, a database containing names, birth dates, educational background, specialties and addresses for more than 800,000 doctors.
The data-mining industry defends the practice as a way of better educating physicians about new drugs.
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