A lawsuit filed in California this week accuses national drug-store chain Walgreen Co. of unlawfully selling medical information gleaned from patient prescriptions, another front in the battle over personal information.
Unlike suits that focus on patient privacy, the plaintiffs accuse Walgreen Co. of depriving them of the commercial value of their own prescription information.
According to the suit, brought by Todd Murphy on behalf of his two daughters and the rest of the class, Walgreen sells the prescription information to data mining companies who resell it to pharmaceutical companies for marketing purposes. The practice allows drugmakers to target physicians considered high-volume prescribers and those most willing to prescribe new medications, it said.
Walgreen spokesman Robert Elfinger said the company had just learned of the lawsuit and declined to comment.
As a measure of the information’s value, the suit cites Walgreen’s 2010 annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which lists “purchased prescription files” as intangible assets worth $749 million.