Eighteen states considered restrictions on commercial use of prescriber data this year, according to this Associated Press story.  But a pending decision in the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals (IMS v. Ayotte) about the legality of the first-in-nation New Hampshire data mining ban has largely frozen the issue, which is earning attention at the federal level, as well.  In the spring, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI)  made some inquiries into the American Medical Association’s sale of its prescriber profiles for hefty sums each year.

“We have no privacy issues here,” IMS vice president Randy Frankel told the AP, but many physicians and their advocates (RxP among them) say it goes beyond politesse, and that pharma reps who know covertly doctors’ prescribing patterns are invading the doctor-patient relationship by often pitching the most expensive, least-proven drugs.

Read the RxP fact sheet on data mining here.

Speaking of places where there are privacy issues, this Des Moines Register says that no one has been prosecuted for violating the federal patient privacy law known as HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, even though “38,000 Americans, including 267 in Iowa, have complained of HIPAA violations to the federal Office for Civil Rights” since enforcement began in 2003.  According to the Register, “[m]ore than half of those complaints nationally have been disposed of with no investigation. Until last year, no one nationally ever was prosecuted for violating HIPAA.”

And then there were two

Though we saw numbers like this earlier this year, now there are Just Two, so here’s a pre-convention update: Going by campaign contributions, Pharma is hedging for Obama, and in a big way. According to a Center for Responsive Politics study, first reported by Bloomberg, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has received three times as much pharma moula as presumptive Republican nominee John McCain (Ariz.).

Check it out at The Scientist Blog.

Vioxx papers reveal marketing roots

In a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week, researchers found evidence in the Vioxx documents that the ADVANTAGE trial was drummed up entirely by the Merck marketing department.

According to the paper:

The trial emerged from the marketing division with a marketing objective; Merck’s marketing division collected, analyzed, and disseminated both the scientific and the marketing data; and Merck did not reveal the marketing purposes of the trial to participants, physician-investigators, and institutional review board members.

For those of us who read Melody Petersen’s book, Our Daily Meds, such news isn’t as surprising as it ought to be, but all the same, we’re glad to see this truth vs. advertising getting into the medical literature.

Now you CMAP, now you don’t

The Dallas Morning News reports that the Children’s Medication Algorithm Project, a preferred drug program for psychiatric medications in Texas, has been halted as part of an ongoing investigation by that state’s Attorney General.  TMAP, the adult precursor, triggered a suit alleging undue pharmaceutical company influence on the selection of the drugs.

According to News, “[a]t least four of CMAP’s key developers – all affiliated with the University of Texas system, and all of them published child psychiatry experts – have received research funding from drug companies, or have been consultants and speakers for several different pharmaceutical firms.”

“In our country, there’s been a switch from taking care of people to focusing on big corporate money,” Rep. Juan Escobar told the News.  According to the News, Rep. Escobar proposed unsuccessful legislation in Texas last year that “would have banned researchers or government employees funded by the pharmaceutical industry from designing state psychiatric drug protocols.”

Hat tip to Pharmalot.

Deja – vu all over again

Harry and Louise are back, and they’re having some second thoughts about healthcare. Check out the story in the Detroit Free-Press here.