Senate rejects bill to allow drug marketing firms access to patient medical records without consent

The California Senate rejected a bill today sponsored by drug
marketing firms that would have allowed the sharing of a patient’s confidential
medical information regarding prescription drugs among a pharmacy, third party
corporations and pharmaceutical companies.
The bill was however
granted a second chance to pass the Senate next

The Consumer Federation of California opposed SB 1096 (Calderon)
because it raised significant privacy and health care concerns
for patients. The bill would have created an exception to California‘s
Medical Information Act, and allow sharing of confidential patient drug prescription
information without a patient’s consent. The bill’s main backer, Adheris Inc.,
is a subsidiary of inVentiv Health Inc., a drug marketing company.

‘The California Constitution and the people of our state won a
temporary victory today," said
Zack Kaldveer,
spokesperson for the Consumer Federation of California
. "If the drug marketing companies had their way, your
private medical prescriptions would have become commodities to be sold for the purpose of increasing corporate profit, not
improving public health."

SB 1096, drug stores would provide confidential patient prescription
information to third party businesses. The third party would prepare mailings
to patients that would have the appearance of coming from the pharmacy. These
third party marketing corporations would, in turn provide patient information
to, and receive payment from, pharmaceutical drug manufacturers to send the
mailings, ostensibly to remind patients to take their medications or to renew
their prescriptions.

This type of privacy
invasion should not occur without the consent of the patient. Under California
law, pharmacists counsel patients on prescription drugs at the point of
purchase. It would be a simple matter for the pharmacist to ask the patient if
he or she wants to opt in to receive reminder notices as part of the

Drug companies are
interested in acquiring every bit of personally identifiable information about
patients in order to market their products directly to patients. The bill does
not require the third party mailer to remove or encrypt personally identifiable
patient information that it shares with the pharmaceutical company.

"SB 1096 would be an
unprecedented intrusion by drug companies into the physician – patient
relationship and a blatant violation of an
individual’s right to control his or her personal medical information.
said Kaldveer. "A
person’s doctor – not a third party marketing company – is the best source for
informing a patient about how to manage his or her health condition."

The bill would allow a
third party to send reminder mailings that may be in direct contradiction to a
physician’s recommended course of treatment. For example, if a patient begins
to take a medication and experiences an adverse reaction, the patient might
discuss the problem with the prescribing physician, and an alternative course
of treatment may be developed. Unaware of this change in treatment, the
pharmacy has communicated to the third party mailer that a patient is receiving
a medication. The drug company that manufactures the medication then prepares
mailings to remind the patient to take his or her medication, and to renew the

These mailings are designed to look as if they
came from the pharmacy. The patient is now receiving contradictory instructions
from two trusted sources, the doctor and the pharmacy. Senior citizens have the
highest incidence of prescription drug use, and some may be confused by these
conflicting directives.

This kind of direct interference in the doctor
– patient relationship is potentially dangerous to patient health. Yet the bill
does not include any penalties for drug companies that engage through
intermediaries in these communications with patients in contradiction to a
doctor’s recommended course of treatment.

The Consumer
Federation of California urged the state senate to
continue its opposition to the bill unless a patient’s informed consent is
required prior to the transfer of private medical