It’s amazing how few doctors are aware — and how shocked they are to learn – that pharmaceutical companies routinely purchase their prescribing data from pharmacies. So that attractive detailer walking into the Doctor’s office knows exactly how many prescriptions you’ve written for their company’s product versus the competitors’. And they know how the Doctor’s prescribing changed since they last visited.

This allows pharmaceutical salespeople, and the pharmaceutical companies for whom they work, to target their sales pitches — that is, a doctor who’s reluctant to prescribe new drugs right after they’ve come on the market requires perhaps a softer sell than one who prescribes new drugs aggressively at the start. It also allows detailers to tailor their pitches over time — they can see what worked from their last visit right there in the data they purchase from pharmacies.

Most doctors aren’t aware that this goes on, and most patients certainly aren’t aware of it. Many, rightly so, regard it as a crass invasion of their privacy. The New Hampshire Legislature passed the “Prescription Confidentiality Act” last year banning the sale of doctors’ prescribing data for commercial purposes. That law was recently struck down by a Federal District Court, in a case brought by IMS Health and others. Prescription Access Litigation, AARP and others had filed an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief supporting the law and calling for the lawsuit to be dismissed. Hopefully, the state of New Hampshire will appeal the ruling.

Enter the National Physicians Alliance, “founded to restore physicians’ primary emphasis on the core values of our profession: service, integrity, and advocacy.” They have a new campaign supporting other states’ legislative efforts to “ban the sale of physician prescribing data for commercial and marketing purposes.” See their creative 1-minute video on the issue below.