CVS Faces Suit for Prescription Data Sales

     PHILADELPHIA (CN) - CVS Pharmacy raked in millions by selling consumers' confidential prescription information to some of the nation's largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, according to a class action Monday.
     "Not content with the receipt of the substantial funds generated from the performance of pharmacy services, defendants instead chose to generate additional sources of revenue from the confidential prescription information entrusted by consumers to defendants," the complaint in Philadelphia County Court states.
     Arthur Steinberg and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund filed the suit on behalf of other consumers who have received unsolicited communications after CVS allegedly sold customers' private information to Eli Lilly and Co., Merck, AstraZeneca, Bayer, and other drug manufacturers.
     "Specifically, in exchange for the receipt of funds, direct promotional letters were sent to physicians of consumers by defendant CVS Caremark in order to promote and tout specific prescription drugs of pharmaceutical manufacturers who contracted with defendant CVS Caremark" for use of prescription information, according to the complaint. 
     "While touted as an 'RXReview Program' by defendant CVS Caremark, in reality, the physician communications were nothing more than a profit-making opportunity," the class claims.
     CVS' scheme contradicts its "public pronouncements as to the sanctity of both consumers' privacy and the physician-patient relationship," according to the complaint. CVS also never mentioned that it sold customers' confidential information on the "Notice of Privacy Practices" that is included with prescriptions, according to the complaint.
     The complaint quotes a statement CVS Caremark CEO Thomas Ryan made to investors. "We have more information on the consumer and their behavior than anybody else, and we share it with our over-the-counter suppliers," Ryan said, according to the complaint.
     In 2009, CVS settled related claims from the Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Trade Commission. Under the agreement with the health department, CVS paid $2.25 million to settle claims related to media reports that its pharmacies were throwing pill bottles with customers' personal information into open dumpsters.
     A spokesman for the Caroselli, Beachler, McTiernan & Conboy, which represents the class, told Courthouse News that the disclosure of confidential prescription information can be particularly upsetting for a person with HIV or a psychiatric disorder.
     CVS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
     The class seeks statutory damages and disgorgement of ill-gotten profits, alleging  violation of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. It is represented by David Senoff of Caroselli Beachler.