On Wednesday, April 10, graduating medical students will tell the American Medical Association (AMA) that they are opting out of the AMA Physician Masterfile and that they do not want their personal and prescribing information sold to the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. National Opt Out Day, sponsored by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), hopes to rally hundreds of fourth year medical students.
The AMA Physician Masterfile was established by the AMA in 1906 as a record keeping device supporting membership and mailing activities. The Physician Masterfile includes current and historical data for more than 1.4 million physicians, residents and medical students in the United States. Today, sales of the AMA Physician Masterfile totals more than $40 million per year and over 20 percent of their annual revenue.
“The AMA should not be selling this data to pharmaceutical and medical device companies for the purpose of tracking physicians’ prescribing habits to devise directed marketing strategies,” Reshma Ramachandran, AMSA PharmFree Fellow. “Information from the AMA Physician Masterfile should only be used for research purposes to benefit our patients.”
“We want our members – the nation’s future physicians – to understand what this information is being used for so they can make their own decision to remain in the database or opt-out,” says Dr. Elizabeth Wiley, AMSA National President. “Physicians should practice evidence-based medicine using the best existing clinical evidence—not carefully-packaged advertising—and continue to uphold personal and professional integrity.”
“As a physician, I have no knowledge or control over data about me that is sold in the AMA Masterfile," says Dr. Michael Mendoza, medical director at Highland Family Medicine in Rochester, New York and alumni of AMSA. "I am not an AMA member, and I feel that the AMA has abused my rights to privacy by selling data about me without my consent for commercial and marketing purposes."
National Opt Out Day is just one of the events scheduled during National PharmFree Week (NPFW), April 8 – 12, sponsored by AMSA. Thousands of medical students will celebrate the annual event and focus on putting patients first by addressing conflicts of interest and encouraging evidence-based rather than marketing-based education. NPFW aims to focus the attention of medical, premedical and allied health students on the importance of understanding the impact and control of financial and professional relationships with pharmaceutical and medical device companies in education, research and patient care.