AMA to examine ways to prevent physician profiling

February 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

The American Medical Association has resolved to study "legally appropriate" means to restrict pharmaceutical company access to physician prescribing patterns.

The Chicago-based American Medical Association has resolved to study "legally appropriate" means to restrict pharmaceutical company access to physician prescribing patterns.

The AMA study will look at legal ways to:


•Â Prevent drug companies from having access to physician prescribing habits.


•Â Prevent pharmacies from releasing information about physician prescribing habits.


•Â Protect physicians from the use of prescribing information by pharmaceutical companies.


•Â Prevent the use of Drug Enforcement Agency numbers as a pharmaceutical company marketing tool.

Current AMA policy claims that the practice of profiling physician prescribing habits for marketing use "raises serious ethical concerns." The policy, under the heading "Confidentiality: Disclosure of Records to Data Collection Companies," reads: "These arrangements may violate the principles of informed consent and patient confidentiality. Patients divulge information to their physicians only for the purposes of diagnosis and treatment. If other uses are to be made of the information, patients must give their permission after being fully informed about the purposes of such disclosures."

DEA numbers

The AMA particularly singled out the use of DEA numbers to track prescription histories for marketing purposes.

The resolution reads: "The AMA affirms its opposition to use of the [DEA] license number for any purpose other than for verification to the dispenser that the prescriber is authorized by federal law to prescribe the substance; and will explore measures to discourage or eliminate the use of physicians' DEA license numbers as numerical identifiers in insurance processing and other databases, either through legislation, regulation or accommodation with organizations which currently insist on collection of this sensitive data."

The results of the study will be released at the AMA's annual meeting in 2001. PR