In response to reader comments on Joseph Conn's "Data-miners unite in Maine to block 'opt-out' Rx law":
Paul McKenney raises some fair arguments in the latest edition to the debate on prescription profiling. I concede that there is some degree of bipartisanship in the war on the pharmaceutical industryonce politicians start paying for something, they are united in trying to pay as little as possible, as doctors who participate in Medicare and Medicaid can attest. However, when it comes to "politicizing" the issue, I must point out that it is the opponents of the use of prescription profile data who have sought to use the political process, as well as the courts, to impose their will on the market.
The cost-effectiveness of using such data in marketing is proven every day by targeted market campaigns.
The American Medical Association has spent substantial resources publicizing its Physician Data Restriction Program, and I am sure McKenney and like-minded colleagues will use word of mouth to increase awareness. The online dialogue we are engaged in no doubt will further publicize this excellent program.
I am pleased that McKinney has no objection to medical marketing, though I doubt that many of those who seek to restrict prescription data's use legislatively and legally share his equanimity. I agree with him that many generics are perfectly acceptable and certainly relatively affordable. In spite of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, I will disclose that I am a satisfied consumer of a fine generic statin. In fact, as more and more excellent remedies go generic, much of the cost problem will go with them, along with billions of pharmaceutical profits. It will challenge the major pharmaceutical companies we work with to bring breakthrough remedies for currently unmanageable diseases to the marketplace, benefitting physicians and their patients.
I recommend those who are troubled by pharmaceutical business practices to read "Big Pharma faces grim prognosis" in the Wall Street Journal. While such a headline may elicit schadenfreude among industry critics, I suggest mindfullness that in the end we are all patients dependent on the fruits of the industry's research and development for our survival. Richard Evans, a pharmaceutical consultant, says, "The era that created the modern pharmaceutical industry is in fact over." In response to many pressures, the industry is changing, I think for the better. Many of the practices that have engendered the hostility manifested in this debate are history.
I continue to believe that prescription profile data is part of the solution to the challenges of marketing prescription drugs cost-effectively and ethically, not part of the problem, facilitating provision of the right information to the right prescriber at the right time. I am confident my opinion will outlast my career, after which I hope that progress in the pharmaceutical industry's efforts to improve my quality and span of life will give me many years to ponder my position.
Terry NugentVice president of marketingMedical Marketing ServiceWood Dale, Ill. To submit a letter to YOUR VIEWS, click here. Please include your name, title and hometown.