German data provider accused of selling private script info

A German market research firm is in the dock for questioning. A former employee of Pharmafakt has accused the firm of selling information on millions of prescriptions--without stripping the data of identifying information. According to the former staffer, who spoke to Der Spiegel "under oath," Pharmafakt collected the data for sale to pharma companies with personal information intact.

The company denies it ever passed along personal information. "All data is only used to produce studies," Pharmafakt manager Dietmar Wassener told Süddeutsche Zeitung. The company abided by data-protection laws in generating those studies for doctors' groups and drugmakers, Wassener said.

A state enforcement official who was shown the Pharmafakt data said it seemed to be authentic. "This could be one of the biggest data scandals in the country in the medical field," the state of Schleswig-Holstein's Thilo Weichert said.

Among Pharmafakt's customers are Pfizer ($PFE), Sanofi ($SNY), Bayer ($BAY), Novartis ($NVS), Roche ($RHHBY) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), The Local reports. As the English-language news site points out, it's legal in Germany to sell the prescription information, so long as it is made anonymous first.

- read the story from The Local