Bill Sponsor Adheris Changed Its Name After Privacy Violations, Washington Post
Santa Monica, CA — The California Senate rejected a bill today sponsored by a drug marketing firm that was forced to change its name after privacy violations. See Washington Post coverage below.
The bill, SB 1096 (Calderon), which was granted a second chance to pass the Senate and will be voted on again next week, would create a loophole in existing law which bars the sharing of private medical information — including a patient’s illnesses and prescribed medications — without a patient’s prior consent.
"The California Constitution protects the privacy of all Californians. At a minimum, patients must be asked and give consent before their medical records are traded or sold. As personal information — medical, financial and domestic — becomes an increasingly available and valuable commodity for the corporations that buy and sell it, consumers are more vulnerable to unscrupulous marketers, identity thieves and corrupt corporations," said Jerry Flanagan, Health Care Policy Director for Consumer Watchdog. "We urge the Senate to continue to oppose this measure unless it is amended to require a patient’s informed consent prior to the transfer of private medical information."
In the last 2 years, the bill author, Senator Ronald Calderon, has received at least $21,690 from drug companies and others that will benefit from the legislation.
The bill would allow companies like Adheris, the bill sponsor, to access patients’ prescription drug purchases, putatively only for the purpose of communicating with patients to increase "adherence" to the scheduled regimen. The bill is premised on the idea that mailed reminders will help ensure that patients take their medications. The bill sponsor provides no evidence to support the claim. Further, if in fact a reminder to take medication was the goal of the bill, the pharmacy itself could send the reminder without necessitating the transfer of private medical data to a third-party business.
"The bill sponsor is a marketing company employed by drug manufacturers to increase the sales of prescription drugs and has no place in ‘informing’ patients about their illness without their prior consent. This seemingly benign ‘service’ violates a patient’s right to control his or her personal medical information," said Flanagan.
SB 1096 raises the following concerns:
1. There is no way in many instances for Adheris to know exactly why a medication has been prescribed or how a doctor expects it to be taken.
2. Adheris’ advice about how long a medication should be taken may conflict with that of the physician who actually knows the patient, and who may wish to stop the medication or switch to a different medication. If such conflicts occur for even a short time, they may reduce patients’ confidence in their doctor.
3. The patient’s doctor may want him or her to report all significant side effects (particularly among the elderly, weak or immune-compromised), not just those that Adheris may describe as serious or life-threatening.
4. Further, medical records are often coded with a patient’s Social Security number. Information aggregators that get access to medical records could use the Social Security number to combine medical information with a wide range of information already available, including credit information and lists of credit card purchases and bank account balances. The resulting data file would be immensely valuable to companies looking to market products or, in the case of insurers or even mortgage lenders, deny a policy or loan based on combined health and financial data. The digital dossier, maintained without direct government oversight, would also be an attractive target for hackers and identity thieves.
Washington Post coverage of Adheris’ name change and privacy violations:
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