Feds Put AMA on the Hot Seat

This week, Senators Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) sent a letter to the American Medical Association requesting information about its prescriber data opt-out program. According to the BNA Health Care Daily Report, “the letter asked for information related to the AMA’s Physician Data Restriction Program (PDRP), which allows doctors to protect their prescribing information. The letter also requested information regarding the type of outreach the AMA conducts to physicians to educate them about the program, the number of physicians who currently participate, and how the AMA ensures that pharmaceutical companies are appropriately responding to and adhering to the program.”

“To say the least, we are troubled by any attempt to persuade physicians to prescribe a drug for any reason other than the patient’s condition and the drug’s effectiveness in treating it,” said Kohl and Durbin in a statement this week. “Without question, it is very important for physicians to be able to protect the privacy of their prescriber numbers and prescribing patterns.”

What’s it all about? In a (hyphenated) word, data-mining. While the sale of the Masterfile brings home a bundle for the AMA annually ($44.5 million in 2005), the AMA’s opt-out program doesn’t have quite the same cache —few physicians know about it, and even less have opted-out. Some who’ve done it say it’s a rigmarole, and one which must be done every three years to stay “opted-out.” Even then, an opted-out doc’s prescribing data can still be sold – the purchasers must only agree not to share it with individual sales reps. We’re glad to see it’s getting some attention on the Hill.

And this just in, from the On the Dotted Line Dept...

If you haven’t already, check out RxP’s consumer petition for the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a national disclosure bill backed by the National Coalition for Appropriate Prescribing and gathering steam among members of Congress (including Sen. Kohl, who co-sponsors with Sen. Chuck Grassley.)

For more on the Sunshine Act, go here.

And if you’ve already signed up, thank you.