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Senator Jane Nelson: District 12
Senator Jane Nelson
P.O. Box 12068, State Capitol
Austin, Texas 78711
Tel. (512) 463-0112
News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 1999
Contact: Dave Nelson
512-463-0112
PATIENT PRIVACY BILL PASSES SENATE

AUSTIN -- Here are a few situations that might not have happened if Senate Bill 782, authored by State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and approved today by the Texas Senate, was already law:

  • A drug salesman shows up unannounced at the office of a Dallas psychiatrist, holding a list of all 31 of the psychiatrists' patients and the drugs they were taking. Why doesn't she switch her patients' brands, the salesman says.
  • An Austin woman receives a letter on her employer's letterhead, saying it has been revealed that she takes anti-depressants. Why doesn't she enroll in a course to deal with her condition, the letter asks. (She was only taking the drugs to treat sleep deprivation.)
  • Another Texas woman receives a letter from the makers of a drug to treat osteoporosis. "Menopause is the start of a new time in your life and health. Your body is changing and so are its needs," the letter starts.

This medical information should be private, but some companies known as pharmacy benefit managers are disclosing this type of sensitive medical for the sole purpose of marketing. Under SB 782, this action will be subject to criminal penalties of up to $10,000.

"Despite all of our efforts in the Legislature to protect patient privacy, these companies have been recklessly disseminating private medical information for the sole purpose of selling their products," Nelson said. "This practice is unacceptable and undermines our efforts to restore trust in health maintenance organizations. We do not need unscrupulous marketing firms snooping through our medicine cabinets."

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