Legislative Memo

Lev Ginsburg
Director of Government Afairs
T 518.465.7511 x207


A.5891-B (Cahill) /S. 4111-A (Klein)



Prohibits the sale of physician identified prescription records to market prescription drugs to doctors



June 12, 2009


The Business Council of New York State opposes this bill, which would add a new section to the Public Health Law to place restrictions on the commercial use of physician prescribing data.

The bill's sponsor believe this bill would help to contain the cost of health care, particularly the rising cost of prescription drugs by “recognizing that such prescribing practices increased spending for publicly funded health insurance programs.”  No data is provided to support this hypothesis and, while it is widely acknowledged that health care costs have increased, it is not clear that the cost increases are attributable to pharmaceutical companies' communication with health care providers about how to use medicines safely and effectively.  Passage of this bill could result in unintended consequences and would not achieve the bill's stated objective.

Federal law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, already bars any unauthorized use of patient identifiable information and thus prescriber data cannot include this information.  There is a long established role for using specific prescribing data – not identifiable individual patient data – to address patient safety concerns and to meet federally required drug programs that help safeguard patients.  Additionally, access to prescriber data is necessary to train providers and to comply with FDA required Risk Evaluation & Mitigation Strategies for certain high risk medicines.  Finally, the AMA provides physicians with an opt-out mechanism to prohibit the release of their prescribing data to pharmaceutical sales representatives.

Numerous recent studies point to declining spending on prescription drugs.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Office of the Actuary (OACT) released the Federal government's figures on national health care spending for 2007 which show an ongoing sharp decline in retail prescription drug spending growth, leaving medicines as one of the slower growing areas of health care expenditures. Prescription drug spending growth reported by OACT's National Health Expenditures has now declined in seven of the last eight years, and dropped from a peak of 18.1 percent in 1999 to 4.9 percent in 2007. That same data showed the decline in prescription drug spending accounts for more than half of the reduction in overall health care spending growth from 2006 to 2007, even though drug spending accounts for only 10 percent of total health care spending.

The Business Council does not believe the mandates within this bill would achieve the goals of reducing health care costs; improving patient safety; or using data to better inform product safety and product development. For these reasons, The Business Council opposes A.5891-B/S. 4111-A.