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Biological Chemistry

Data For Drugmakers Versus Privacy

April 22, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 16

“Selling Outcomes” by Rick Mullin is an interesting and informative article about possible changes in the works for monitoring drug treatment success in real patients (C&EN, Feb. 25, page 17).

One of the most provocative points in the article is the possibility that doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies, through electronic medical records, could and would share patient outcomes with drug companies. It is troubling to me that nowhere in the article is there mention of the confidentiality of medical records, as required by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act).

I’m not a HIPAA expert, but I fail to see how a drug company qualifies as a caregiver with whom doctors can legitimately share medical records. In this regard, a drug company is no different from a maker of adhesive tape or sutures. Will our electronic medical records be shared with all such suppliers? Will I have no choice about drug companies’ knowing my medical conditions, drugs being taken, outcomes of treatments? Troubling to say the least.

In general, I enjoy C&EN and its articles very much. I suggest a follow-up article about patient privacy in this era of electronic medical records.

Todd Williams
Lake Elmo, Minn.


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