Merck reaches settlement in privacy violation suit

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Merck has reached a settlement with the consumer group that filed a civil lawsuit against more than 25 pharma companies and the supermarket chain Albertson's charging its pharmacies violated patient confidentiality.
The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
The lawsuit, filed by the consumer group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), alleges that a number of major pharma companies used information they purchased from Albertson's to contact consumers via direct mail and phone calls. The solicitations appeared to be reminders from concerned local pharmacists to renew a prescription or consider an alternative drug but were really pharmaceutical promotional materials generated from a database sold by Albertson's, the suit alleged.
Initially filed in California's San Diego County Superior Court in May 2004, the lawsuit was amended in Sept. 2004 to specifically name major pharmaceutical companies including Merck, Aventis, Schering-Plough, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Tap Pharmaceutical Products, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Wyeth, Procter & Gamble, Teva Pharmaceutical, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Allergan, GlaxoSmithKline and others.
Jeffrey Krinsk, an attorney handling the case for PRC told MM&M the consumer group plans to fight an anticipated April motion to dismiss the case by the pharma companies and Albertson's.
The case could enter the "hearing phase" by June, Krinsk said.
Calls to Merck and Albertson's regarding the settlement went unreturned.
In October 2004, Albertson's strongly denied the charges made in the lawsuit to MM&M. "We consider the charges to be false and without merit – and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them," an Albertson's spokeswoman said.
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