May 15, 2006

Gov. John Lynch will sign a bill that would make New Hampshire the first state to effectively ban pharmaceutical companies from acquiring doctors' prescription data, according to a spokeswoman for the governor's office.

The state House of Representatives passed the bill late May 11, following the lead of the state Senate, which approved the measure on May 4.

The law would prevent pharmaceutical benefit managers, insurance companies, data-mining companies and all types of pharmacies from selling, transferring, using or licensing prescription information for any commercial purpose. This includes any purpose that "could be used to influence sales or market share of a pharmaceutical product [or] influence or evaluate the prescribing behavior of an individual health care professional."

Currently, drugmakers buy information about what drugs doctors prescribe, and use the data to craft sales strategies for their drug products. Some lawmakers are concerned drug sales representatives may be using the information to try to change a doctor's prescribing habits, such as pressuring them to write more prescriptions for a drug or fewer prescriptions for a competing drug.

The American Medical Association already plans to launch a program July 1 that would allow doctors to opt their prescribing information out of such lists.

In a statement issued before the vote, PhRMA Senior Vice President Ken Johnson said that without access to prescription data, drugmakers would not be able to identify and alert physicians about problems related to specific products. The association declined to elaborate on that release.

Rising health care costs are a major incentive for states to craft such bills, especially in light of how successful sales representatives have been at convincing doctors to prescribe newer, more expensive drugs. From 1997-2002, Medicaid spending more than doubled while the use of generic drugs for conditions that cost Medicaid the most fell sharply, according to a report by HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. This resulted at least partly from the increased introduction of new brand drugs, the report said. (http://www.fdanews.com/did/5_95/)