Data Mining For DoD Health

Contracts naturally come in all sizes, shapes and flavors. Here's one that's just plain fascinating.

"U.S. Department of Defense Chooses Phase Forward to Support FDA-Sponsored Drug Safety Initiative."

That's the headline of a press release from a drug industry firm called Phase Forward. The contract involves an effort to use powerful data mining software to examine the medical records of some 12 million people, a company spokesman told us.

The stated aim is to improve the safety of prescription drugs through "rapid evaluation of DoD healthcare data on Army active duty personnel, their family members and retirees to determine which potential safety 'signals' merit a more thorough investigation through an epidemiological study.

"'FDA's data sharing initiative with DoD and other federal partners is an important step forward in drug safety innovation,' said Phase Forward Lincoln Safety Group President Chan Russell. 'By partnering with DoD and other health care data providers, FDA gains access to a rich and comprehensive set of patient data. We look forward to supporting the DoD and FDA in this important project as part of their efforts to more actively monitor the safety of marketed products.'"

How very interesting.

The company -- a public company -- won't say how much the contract is worth. "In keeping with Phase Forward corporate policy, we don't disclose the terms of customer contracts," a spokesman wrote in an email.

Government Inc. wonders how the information is gathered, who controls it and how it's reused. A company official said the focus is "primarily on safety." The press release notes that the firm has worked closely with major drug companies and health care researchers on some 10,000 clinical trials. The firm describes itself as "a leading provider of integrated data management solutions for clinical trials and drug safety."

Here's question Government Inc. can't yet answer: Is the privacy and autonomy of DoD employees secure?

By Robert O'Harrow |  December 16, 2008; 9:24 AM ET medical
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Creepy.

Posted by: sebsosman | December 17, 2008 2:03 AM

Excuse me, but didn't Congress pass a law protecting citizens against exactly this? and NOW they are giving Pharmacy Companies access to MEDICAL RECORDS without patient consent. Bush et al have been very busy taking away the rights of Americans all to the benefit of Corporations...so someone please tell me how my privacy is being protected. Medical Records are medical records, whether they are through the DOD or CDC or FDA...privacy is exactly that private and access can only be granted by the patient...or we no longer live in a democracy!

Posted by: axf56730 | December 17, 2008 11:28 AM

To give you an idea of the ethics of the pharma companies, every large one has settled for multi tens, sometimes hundreds, of millions of dollars with the Department of Justice in False Claims Act suits. All involve various pricing shenanigans with Medicare and/or Medicaid. These corporations treat the False Claims Act settlements as just another cost of doing business. Like the hospital chains (Tenet is the best example), they violate the FCA again and again.
Ever wonder why meds cost so much and why the government can't negotiate the best deal? (In Medicare Part D, the law precludes price negotiation worthy of the name, while across town, the VA can negotiate and pays far less.) This is some of the low hanging fruit that the new Congress + the new President can harvest in cutting health care costs.

Posted by: axolotl | December 17, 2008 12:29 PM

If what axolotl is true

"Ever wonder why meds cost so much and why the government can't negotiate the best deal? (In Medicare Part D, the law precludes price negotiation worthy of the name, while across town, the VA can negotiate and pays far less.) This is some of the low hanging fruit that the new Congress + the new President can harvest in cutting health care costs", the new administration would do well to adhere to these principles.

Posted by: rfletch292131 | December 17, 2008 1:31 PM

Q: "Is the privacy and autonomy of DoD employees secure?"

A: oh hell no.

Posted by: lquarton | December 18, 2008 1:03 AM

Remember the story last summer, about the two companies in Minnesota, who mine your Rx records for the past 5 years, and then create a Health risk score for Insurance companies?
(I'm trying to see if I kept a copy...)

How do you suppose that activity relates to this?

I am already one of the people who will never be approved for insurance, no matter what, but could it be that someone will do the same to DoD employees and vets?

Posted by: bluejaymd | December 19, 2008 11:39 AM

Once again, the government creates a potential catastrophe for the public at large by creating rules or breaking their previously passed rules to pass out tokens of appreciation for their re-election.

My wish for the new year is that Congress and the government for once holds themselves to the same level of accountability they expect from everyone else. Even for a day on one issue. And don't spew the "But Obama will take care of this". He and his appointees are hip deep in the dung and nothing will change.

These clowns are our alleged representatives, not some Elite American Aristocracy, although one would be hard pressed to find a member who doesn't believe that.

Posted by: BasilBoy | December 22, 2008 12:34 PM

We haven't had a democracy, or a republic, in this country since Lincoln and perhaps before. Our decline has accelerated and this is only one of many nails in our collective coffins. I hope we can dig out before the dirt settles and becomes too solid to break through. If we wait that long, as we seem to have done, perhaps only "the blood of patriots" will restore us to freedom.

Posted by: lhart | December 23, 2008 8:31 AM

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