I saw a patient today who got a call from a law firm telling him that since Merck has settled the Vioxx claims in the United States, he should prepare his file since it's sure that a similar settlement will come to Canada. My patient had, in fact, taken Vioxx in the past but had never had any untoward side effects. (As with many of my patients, he would gladly go back on it if it was available.) The creepy part is that my patient had never contacted the firm in the past, nor discussed the matter with anyone. Somehow, this law firm had obtained access to his medication history without his authorization. There would appear to be three or four main suspects, as far as I can see.
1) My staff. Yikes! What a thought. But it would be rather inefficient to search through hundreds of files to pick out those that took Vioxx years ago, and on the sly as well. Besides, I have great staff, the idea is inconceivable
2)Pharmacy staff- I have no idea how easy it would be to troll through old med records.
3)Government files- here in Quebec we have provincially funded medication insurance for anybody who does not have private insurance. They have records that go way back and a huge number of fairly anonymous employees.
4)Private insurers- again I have no idea how many people would have access to this information and how easy it would be to compile.
Unfortunately my patient didn't think of asking them where they got the info. Somehow though, I don't think this will be the last time this comes up.