CA bill legalizes patient data exchange

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Legislation pending in the California state assembly would allow pharmacies to send patient prescription information to advertisers.

However, information sent to patients on behalf of pharmacies must “pertain only to the prescribed course of medical treatment” and that “it may not mention any other pharmaceutical products.” Patients are given an opportunity to “opt out of the written communication,” according to the bill (SB 1096).

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Ron Calderon (D-CA), is premised by The Confidentiality of Medical Information Act, which “prohibits a provider of healthcare, a healthcare service plan, contractor or corporation…from intentionally sharing, selling, using for marketing or otherwise using any medical information…for any purpose not necessary to provide healthcare services to a patient.”

Additionally, the bill stipulates that materials sent to patients on behalf of pharmacies “shall include specified disclosures regarding whether the pharmacy receives direct or indirect remuneration for making that written communication.”

The bill passed through the state senate last May, and listed Adheris, an inVentiv health company, as the bill's source. Critics have claimed the bill would jeopardize patient privacy. Jerry Flanagan of Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog told the Los Angeles Times that “your private medical information is being transferred from one database to another. Once that genie's out of the bottle, it's hard to get back in.”

Tom Sullivan, president of the Rockpointe Corporation, has a different opinion.

“I think this bill is a classic win-win scenario. Reminding patients to take their medications increases their life expectancy, reduces morbidity and enhances quality of life. The pharmaceutical companies who fund the program benefit from more sales,” says Sullivan. “Which would you prefer, your mother dying of heart disease or [having] a stroke from not taking medication, or protecting [her] privacy so [she] can suffer the consequences?”
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