Drug compliance programs receive negative press

Pharmaceutical Representative

Pharmaceutical companies were portrayed as aggressive, money-hungry and even nosy in articles on patient privacy issues in the Wall Street Journal on April 17.

Pharmaceutical companies were portrayed as aggressive, money-hungry and even nosy in articles on patient privacy issues in the Wall Street Journal on April 17.

"Drug companies are minding your business," one headline warned, while another read: "Prescription toll-free numbers yield a gold mine for marketers." The unflattering implications of the articles were that industry-sponsored patient compliance and education efforts are little more than means of identifying and targeting the users of particular products.

Database marketing programs - built by responses to health questionnaires at pharmacies or in popular magazines, or via toll-free informational numbers - are allowing pharmaceutical companies to see past the confidential curtain surrounding doctors and their patients, the Journal reported. Patients who fill out the questionnaires are then sent mailings about particular therapies or products targeting their diseases or conditions.

Some patients have filed lawsuits against large retail pharmacy chains that employ these "so-called compliance programs," the Journal reported. The plaintiffs claim that the programs and subsequent mailings violate their right to privacy.

Informational booklets about specific ailments that are published by non-industry sources but are approved or funded by industry members also drew criticism. A new series of booklets from Reader's Digest that contain articles and prescription-drug advertisements will be mailed to carefully selected subscribers who responded to a survey mailed by the publication last year. As an incentive, the survey was mailed in conjunction with a sweepstakes offer.

Because the booklets may be sponsored by major pharmaceutical manufacturers, the Journal reported general concerns about bias surrounding the information. "Giving an advertiser even a limited editorial role is 'an implied endorsement from the publication,'" the writers stated, quoting industry experts. PR