Valtrex for Genital Herpes

by on November 21, 2007 · 28 comments

Patient Privacy Rights is campaigning to restrict the use of prescription information. I was impressed by their video.

The thing I like about the campaign is that it’s mostly directed at pharmacy chains. I’d like pharmacies’ practices with prescription information to be one of the dimensions on which they compete. We need more information and we should use it when we decide which pharmacy to go to.

A wee quibble: The video talks about what the law should be, and the campaign cc:s members of Congress. I’m not impressed with legislative attempts to protect privacy. The legislative process is a playground dominated by organized interests – governments, corporations, and their lobbyists – not by consumers. In fact, the PPR site links to a Hastings Center report that documents nicely how the HIPPA “privacy rule” is not a privacy protection at all. My own effort on that score, from a few years back, is here.

That gloss aside, though, restriction of prescription information is the right outcome, and addressing the issue to pharmacy chains in the right way to pursue it.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    How can privacy, under libertarian concepts, be “protected”??

    I would favor legislation that would prohibit any sharing of consumer information between corporations. No exceptions. But as you correctly point out, our legislative process, as currently practiced, is highly flawed.

    Conversely, I don’t see any logical reason as to why any corporation would deprive themselves of an opportunity to enhance their profits. As has been pointed out to me, corporations are into profit making so they feel no ethical compulsion to protect the consumer. The fact that they can manipulate the legislative process to prevent pro-privacy legislation is proof that they would not (even in the absence of legislation) willingly protect the consumer. Furthermore, they believe, that they own this personal information so it would be hard to convince them that they do not have a right to use it.

    Since we live in an era of the excessive assertion of property rights, I have a proposal. Companies should pay the consumer a royalty each time they buy/trade/rent/etc. the consumer’s information. After all, the consumers personal data is private property and has monetary value, otherwise companies would not pay for it. Furthermore, if radio stations have the technical expertise to pay artists royalties, this technology can be adapted to pay consumers. Spammers certainly know how to contact us. :)

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    How can privacy, under libertarian concepts, be “protected”??

    I would favor legislation that would prohibit any sharing of consumer information between corporations. No exceptions. But as you correctly point out, our legislative process, as currently practiced, is highly flawed.

    Conversely, I don’t see any logical reason as to why any corporation would deprive themselves of an opportunity to enhance their profits. As has been pointed out to me, corporations are into profit making so they feel no ethical compulsion to protect the consumer. The fact that they can manipulate the legislative process to prevent pro-privacy legislation is proof that they would not (even in the absence of legislation) willingly protect the consumer. Furthermore, they believe, that they own this personal information so it would be hard to convince them that they do not have a right to use it.

    Since we live in an era of the excessive assertion of property rights, I have a proposal. Companies should pay the consumer a royalty each time they buy/trade/rent/etc. the consumer’s information. After all, the consumers personal data is private property and has monetary value, otherwise companies would not pay for it. Furthermore, if radio stations have the technical expertise to pay artists royalties, this technology can be adapted to pay consumers. Spammers certainly know how to contact us. :)

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Maybe I am not the only one with this concept. Chris wrote as a “Freedom to Tinker” comment “A generalization of what you are saying is that the proper degree of control over access to personal information will not exist until those to whom the information pertains are given a property right in (access to) that information.”

    As I have been thinking about this more, I would even advocate, in the extreme, that the consumer be paid for any phone calls and mail solicitations received. The consumer’s time has monetary value.

    Realistically, I would hope that we could pass reasonable legislation to prohibit corporations from sharing our information.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Maybe I am not the only one with this concept. Chris wrote as a “Freedom to Tinker” comment “A generalization of what you are saying is that the proper degree of control over access to personal information will not exist until those to whom the information pertains are given a property right in (access to) that information.”

    As I have been thinking about this more, I would even advocate, in the extreme, that the consumer be paid for any phone calls and mail solicitations received. The consumer’s time has monetary value.

    Realistically, I would hope that we could pass reasonable legislation to prohibit corporations from sharing our information.

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  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    Sorry, Tom, I can’t help you. This is not a post about drugs and their efficacy or side-effects. It’s about your privacy when you get drugs from the pharmacist.

    To which I’ll now turn, Steve R:

    The way I look at it, people have property rights in information about themselves, but they routinely abandon it, such as when they do business with companies not having made any reservation of their rights.

    Generally speaking: You wanna keep it private? Keep it secret!

    But how do you maintain privacy while engaging in commerce? Health care and pharmaceuticals are too messed up a marketplace, so let me use a simpler example, just for illustration: I go to my local grocer and say, “I will buy these bananas from you if you will promise not to tell a soul that I did.” The grocer agreeing, I buy the bananas, and the fact that I bought bananas remains a confidence between us forever. The privacy of my banana-buying habits are secure.

    At the macro level, this kind of thing happens when companies seek customers based on providing better privacy protection than their competitors. E-Loan is an example of a company that has done this with some success. Alas, privacy isn’t a very strong consumer demand, so you don’t see fierce competition along this dimension like you do over, say, price. (You might in the health/pharm area if good folks like Patient Privacy Rights agitate successfully.) But from time to time, you will see where consumers’ privacy demands whack a company that gets out of line, such as the DoubleClick debacle a few years back.

    When the horse is out of the barn – data about your transactions is out there – should legislation come back in and say that certain parties should be specially disabled from using it – true information that they collected or that is derived from transactions they were involved in?

    A lot of people think it’s a good idea – maybe just for “the corporations” – but actually doing this would be something like trying to reverse the direction a river flows – the stream of commerce in information – with minimal benefits. Remember, consumer demand for privacy isn’t all that high. (Don’t shoot the messenger! Just callin’ it like I see it!)

    As to micropayments for uses of personal information about us. It’s been talked about for some time, but I don’t see it as particularly viable – it would be prohibitively difficult to implement. And equivalent rewards are already going to consumers in the form of free content, better designed products, better targeted advertising, lower cost of credit, and such, made possible by the use of consumer information to add smarts to our increasingly information-based economy.

    There’s a libertarian’s take on protecting privacy (if not the libertarian take). It’s not satisfying to most people because most people want their privacy delivered to them on a platter. They don’t want to bitch at companies, inconvenience themselves by refusing transactions that don’t satisfy their privacy preferences, etc. But I think that’s the way to get privacy. I wouldn’t rely on the government to deliver privacy – it is just as interested in undoing your privacy as the corporations.

  • http://www.cato.org/people/harper.html Jim Harper

    Sorry, Tom, I can’t help you. This is not a post about drugs and their efficacy or side-effects. It’s about your privacy when you get drugs from the pharmacist.

    To which I’ll now turn, Steve R:

    The way I look at it, people have property rights in information about themselves, but they routinely abandon it, such as when they do business with companies not having made any reservation of their rights.

    Generally speaking: You wanna keep it private? Keep it secret!

    But how do you maintain privacy while engaging in commerce? Health care and pharmaceuticals are too messed up a marketplace, so let me use a simpler example, just for illustration: I go to my local grocer and say, “I will buy these bananas from you if you will promise not to tell a soul that I did.” The grocer agreeing, I buy the bananas, and the fact that I bought bananas remains a confidence between us forever. The privacy of my banana-buying habits are secure.

    At the macro level, this kind of thing happens when companies seek customers based on providing better privacy protection than their competitors. E-Loan is an example of a company that has done this with some success. Alas, privacy isn’t a very strong consumer demand, so you don’t see fierce competition along this dimension like you do over, say, price. (You might in the health/pharm area if good folks like Patient Privacy Rights agitate successfully.) But from time to time, you will see where consumers’ privacy demands whack a company that gets out of line, such as the DoubleClick debacle a few years back.

    When the horse is out of the barn – data about your transactions is out there – should legislation come back in and say that certain parties should be specially disabled from using it – true information that they collected or that is derived from transactions they were involved in?

    A lot of people think it’s a good idea – maybe just for “the corporations” – but actually doing this would be something like trying to reverse the direction a river flows – the stream of commerce in information – with minimal benefits. Remember, consumer demand for privacy isn’t all that high. (Don’t shoot the messenger! Just callin’ it like I see it!)

    As to micropayments for uses of personal information about us. It’s been talked about for some time, but I don’t see it as particularly viable – it would be prohibitively difficult to implement. And equivalent rewards are already going to consumers in the form of free content, better designed products, better targeted advertising, lower cost of credit, and such, made possible by the use of consumer information to add smarts to our increasingly information-based economy.

    There’s a libertarian’s take on protecting privacy (if not the libertarian take). It’s not satisfying to most people because most people want their privacy delivered to them on a platter. They don’t want to bitch at companies, inconvenience themselves by refusing transactions that don’t satisfy their privacy preferences, etc. But I think that’s the way to get privacy. I wouldn’t rely on the government to deliver privacy – it is just as interested in undoing your privacy as the corporations.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    On micropayments – Realistically I don’t ever see that happening. I would rather see the practice of trading customer information abolished. The argument that “it would be prohibitively difficult to implement.” is flawed. By flawed, I don’t mean that it won’t be difficult, by flawed I mean that telemarketers/spammers have learned how to successfully use technology to make this “difficult process” work for their self-interest and evidently it is profitable since they can afford to send us this junk. So if they can send me junk mail, they could easily include a check!

    On protecting privacy – You are correct that “privacy isn’t a very strong consumer demand”. My principal concern with the trading of consumer information isn’t privacy, but the potential liability of identity theft and the fact that I don’t want to receive solicitations.

    On the Libertarian privacy view – Again you are correct that it is ultimately the consumers responsibility to protect their information. My concern with your banana example is that the consumer in some cases may not live next to a neighborhood store where they can complete an anonymous cash transaction. I have lived in many locations were your business dealings must be done remotely since there is no neighborhood retail/commercial presence. Of course, you could say, that I shouldn’t live in a remote area but we all make choices.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    On micropayments – Realistically I don’t ever see that happening. I would rather see the practice of trading customer information abolished. The argument that “it would be prohibitively difficult to implement.” is flawed. By flawed, I don’t mean that it won’t be difficult, by flawed I mean that telemarketers/spammers have learned how to successfully use technology to make this “difficult process” work for their self-interest and evidently it is profitable since they can afford to send us this junk. So if they can send me junk mail, they could easily include a check!

    On protecting privacy – You are correct that “privacy isn’t a very strong consumer demand”. My principal concern with the trading of consumer information isn’t privacy, but the potential liability of identity theft and the fact that I don’t want to receive solicitations.

    On the Libertarian privacy view – Again you are correct that it is ultimately the consumers responsibility to protect their information. My concern with your banana example is that the consumer in some cases may not live next to a neighborhood store where they can complete an anonymous cash transaction. I have lived in many locations were your business dealings must be done remotely since there is no neighborhood retail/commercial presence. Of course, you could say, that I shouldn’t live in a remote area but we all make choices.

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