May 16, 2006

The U.S. government may step in to regulate the use of doctors' prescription data if states create a "bureaucratic headache" by imposing their own laws, according to one expert.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch plans to sign a bill that would make his state the first to effectively ban pharmaceutical companies from acquiring such 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.

"There might be a push to come up with a national standard that states have to comply with," a representative of a Washington, D.C. think tank, who asked not to be identified, told FDAnews. "One of the complaints from companies is that when states impose their own policies that conflict with policies in other states, it creates a huge bureaucratic nightmare."

This is similar to the situation pharmaceutical manufacturers face with a mandate from seven states and the District of Columbia to make sure their IT systems can provide a record of the gifts their sales representatives have made to physicians. Since laws vary from state to state, pharma sales IT systems face the complicated task of tracking all these variations in reporting requirements, sometimes even for the same individual doctors if they maintain offices in two different states.

The New Hampshire 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. (http://www.fdanews.com/did/5_96/)