Albertsons’ Rx Marketing Called Deceptive

Sep 10, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC), a San Diego-based consumer advocacy group, has filed a lawsuit against Albertsons accusing the company of “violating the privacy rights of thousands of its customers by illegally selling their confidential prescription information to drug companies.”

According to PRC, pharmacy customers of Albertsons’ supermarkets and drugstore units received direct mail and phone solicitations from the retailer reminding them to refill a prescription or provide them with an alternative medication they might want to consider for future use. Solicitations were allegedly made without the knowledge of the prescribing doctors.

Consumers were allegedly targeted for these solicitations after Albertsons mined confidential information on shoppers from its database.

The retailer was said to have been paid for the letters and phone calls containing sales messages approved by the pharmaceutical companies. According to the PRC, Albertsons received between $3 and $4.50 for each solicitation letter and between $12 and $15 for each phone inquiry.

Beth Givens, director of the PRC, said these payments “could translate into millions of dollars of income for Albertsons from an unauthorized and unwanted drug marketing scheme which violate medical privacy rights of thousands of Albertsons’ customers.”

Albertsons denied the charges in a company statement released yesterday. “We highly value and respect the privacy of our pharmacy customers and do not sell, nor have we ever sold, their private information.”

Moderator’s Comment: If the charges are true, has Albertsons overstepped its authority and used personal shopper information in an improper manner? Will
the lawsuit brought against Albertsons, regardless of how it turns out, erode the general level of confidence consumers have in the chain?

This from a piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune: “In small print at the bottom of one letter, commending a patient for renewing a prescription for
controlling high blood pressure, is a note saying the letter is part of a program sponsored in conjunction with Novartis, the company that makes the drug. The letter states that
a customer no longer wishing to participate in the program should sign a form and return it, or call a toll-free number.”

Pharmaceutical companies Aventis, Sherring Plough, AstraZeneca, TAP Pharmaceutical Products, Eli Lilly, Novartis, Wyeth, Proctor & Gamble, Teva Pharmaceutical,
GlaxoSmithKline llc, Merck, Allergan, Bristol- Meyers Squibb, Pfizer, Galderma, and Otsuka America Pharmaceuticals are also named in the suit.

George Anderson – Moderator

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