Senators take on data mining

Companies like IMS and Verispan have built major businesses by collecting data on physician prescribing habits and selling it to drugmakers. Pharma companies pass this information on to their sales reps, who use the data to tailor their pitches to the doctors.

But two lawmakers are hoping to change that. Sens. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin and Dick Durbin of Illinois have proposed an amendment to the healthcare reform bill that would ban the practice of data mining--bringing an end to "harassing sales practices" and lessening pharma reps' influence over physician prescribing habits, they say. The Senators maintain data mining leads to drug marketing that drives up drug costs. "The more pressure there is on Medicaid budgets and private insurance premiums, the more state legislators are realizing that industry marketing promotes expensive drugs over less expensive ones," Marcia Hams, director of prescription access at Community Catalyst, tells the AP. She adds that data mining will garner more attention as legislators realize how much it influences drug marketing.

On the state level, New Hampshire and Vermont have already passed laws against data mining, despite lawsuits from IMS and Verispan. Maine tried to enact a similar measure but has thus far been unsuccessful. The healthcare reform bill already passed by the House does not limit data mining.

- here's the AP report