Journal of General Internal Medicine

, 23:1277

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Prescription Tracking and Public Health

  • Adriane Fugh-BermanAffiliated withDepartment of Physiology and Biophysics, Georgetown University Medical Center Email author 



Monitoring and modifying physicians’ prescribing behavior through prescription tracking is integral to pharmaceutical marketing. Health information organizations (HIOs) combine prescription information purchased from pharmacies with anonymized patient medical records purchased from health insurance companies to determine which drugs individual physicians prefer for specific diagnoses and patient populations. This information is used to tailor marketing strategies to individual physicians and to assess the effect of promotions on prescribing behavior.


The American Medical Association (AMA) created the Prescription Data Restriction Plan in an attempt to address both the privacy concerns of physicians and industry concerns that legislation could compromise the availability of prescribing data. However, the PDRP only prohibits sales representatives and their immediate supervisors from accessing the most detailed reports. Less than 2% of US physicians have registered for the PDRP, and those who have signed up are not the physicians who are targeted for marketing.


Although it has been argued that prescription tracking benefits public health, data gathered by HIOs is designed for marketing drugs. These data are sequestered by industry and are not generally available for genuine public health purposes.


prescription tracking public health pharmaceutical companies physicians health information organizations prescribing behavior pharmaceutical marketing patient-level data