AMA sells its membership database

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 25 November 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1307
  1. Fred Charatan
  1. Florida

    The American Medical Association (AMA) has agreed to supply its files on 650000 doctors to a company specialising in databases to create a joint venture called HealthCareProConnect. The association will earn about $18.8m (£13.4m) from the deal.

    Three years ago, the association was criticised for its commercial deal with the Sunbeam Corporation that would have allowed the association seal to be placed on the company's home health care products in exchange for royalties (BMJ 1997;315:502).

    Critics are now worried that drug and medical supply companies will use HealthCareProConnect—set up through the association's deal with Acxiom Corporation—to solicit doctors with controversial marketing practices that violate the association's own ethical standards.

    Dr Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, said, “It is a very common practice for professional organisations and groups to sell mailing lists to others. But many will not do so in order to protect their members from unwanted marketing. Still others will not do so since they believe that the kind of advertising their members will be subjected to is too commercial or skewed.

    “The AMA wants the American people to respect the professionalism of medicine, but the road to the respect does not run through the sale of membership lists to for-profit marketing entities.”

    Richard Corlin, the association's president elect, said earlier this month: “The American Medical Association strongly objects to certain media reports today that mischaracterise the intent and potential benefits offered by its new joint venture with Acxiom Corporation—HealthCareProConnect. Today, physicians are bombarded with information and solicitations from medical marketers. While many marketers provide needed and useful information to physicians, not all do. HealthCareProConnect seeks to address this situation.”

    He added: “Mistakenly, some articles today said that HealthCareProConnect was formed to promote increased access by pharmaceutical companies to physicians. On the contrary, HealthCareProConnect helps improve the quality and accuracy of physician information while enabling physicians to screen out unwanted and unnecessary solicitations.

    “It simply does not follow logically, as some media reports suggest, that creating a much better physician database increases the incidence of unethical gifts.”

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