Silly Consumer, Did You Think Your Prescription Info Was Private?

The NYT has the story of a woman who, more than 10 years after she tried and failed to have a baby using in vitro procedures, is still getting marketing information for all sorts of products. First it was Pampers and baby formula — then, as the baby she did not have “grew up,” so did the marketing offers. How did they get her information? They bought it.

From the NYT:

Like many other people, Ms. Krinsk thought that her prescription information was private. But in fact, prescriptions, and all the information on them – including not only the name and dosage of the drug and the name and address of the doctor, but also the patient’s address and Social Security number – are a commodity bought and sold in a murky marketplace, often without the patients’ knowledge or permission.

This could apparently change if a little noticed portion of the stimulus bill that bans the sale of health information in most cases is enforced. The NYT says the law also prevents your pharmacy from marketing new drugs to you on behalf of the pharmaceutical company, a practice that is already illegal in California.

Still, the law doesn’t prevent companies from selling “anonymous” health data — and it’s apparently not that difficult to “reidentify” the users — which is probably what happened to the consumer mentioned above.

So… just make sure not to have any health conditions that you might want to keep to yourself. Ok?

And You Thought a Prescription Was Private [NYT]

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.