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Monday, October 15, 2007


Just when you thought you could go back to the Albertsons/OSCO pharmacy without worrying about your personal data, they start yet another program that will document all medical-related activity at your friendly OSCO pharmacist. I called mine, the pharmacy manager, to raise hell, and he didn’t even know about the program called “NextStep Prescription Support.” My wife wasn’t given a choice of joining; she’s in the program unless she takes the time to call them and cancel. It’s called “negative option” in junk mail, and one of the most devious methods used to acquire customers. I did three posts on Albertsons/OSCO starting in October of 2005 (See one, two, three) about requests for my Social Security number, and mine and my wife’s driver’s license numbers for their database, and also mailings we were receiving then with private information about our medications. Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (PRC) filed a lawsuit in September of 2004, charging Albertsons and its drug chain subsidiaries OSCO, SavOn, and Jewel-OSCO, with “violating the privacy rights of thousands of its customers by illegally using their confidential prescription information to conduct targeted marketing campaigns on behalf of drug companies.” In a direct quote from the PRC action, “The complaint alleges that Albertsons’ pharmacy customers receive direct mail and phone solicitations derived from confidential customer medical information provided to the pharmacy solely to fill prescriptions. The solicitations look like they are from the patient’s concerned local pharmacist and remind the customer to renew a prescription or consider an alternative medication. But they are actually generated for pharmaceutical company’s sales purposes by a specially-designed marketing database, sold by Albertsons. The phone calls customers receive are intended to more urgently communicate the same message. Written authorization from the customer is not first provided as legally required.” So you ask why we are still dealing with Albertsons/OSCO if they are into so many of these shenanigans. Because someone has to keep an eye on them, and I am also working on another story about the pharmaceutical industry that I know I can depend on Albertsons for a major contribution, based on their track record. According to the letter we received—displayed at the beginning of this post—the NextStep Prescription Support Program comes by financial support from Proctor & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, and Sanofi-aventis, neither of which get to see your “personal information,” Albertsons professes at the end. There have been changes at Albertsons Inc. out of Boise, ID in the past couple of years, in the sale of some 661 Albertsons stores around the country to investor group, Cerberus Capital Management, LP, with headquarters in New York. It is from this organization that my wife’s letter was received. The new Albertsons LLC will be headed up by Robert Miller, who exclaims that now that they are smaller, they can better deal with things at the local level and “have a more targeted focus on what is right for the customer and be able to make those decisions much more quickly and closer to them.” In the case of the NextStep Prescription Support Program, he’d better rethink that decision.

Tomorrow: More on "Pharmacies Profiting at Your Expense."

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