Letter: Who All Has Access to Prescription Information?

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Regarding this ongoing and enlightening horror story about Walgreens and unsolicited Prozac, this reminds me of an experience that I had last year.

RiteAid had decided that with all these phone numbers for all these pharmacy customers ("oh, goody goody!"), they should start a proactive campaign to renew prescriptions. (You can hear the dialogue internally: "We gotta keep 'em before others snatch 'em away from us!")

As a holder of about four prescriptions at RiteAid, I got a call about my first prescription, and the pitch was, "Since we see that this is a monthly renewal, we'd like to see if you'd like us to automatically renew it for you and call you when it's in." I was surprised to get this pitch, but when asked, they told me that they were actually RiteAid calling, not an outside calling center. Relieved and interested in the convenience, I said yes.

Two days later, I got a call regarding a different prescription, but this was not a monthly although it could have renewals.

I was growing suspicious and asked, "Say, if you are there, at RiteAid, don't you have all my records there to renew them all at once?" Apparently by her hemming and hawing, she did not have access to this information. After asking a few more questions, I became alarmed ... and wondered, who the hell ARE these people and who ELSE are they going to tell about my prescriptions? I told them to remove me completely from the call list.

It was very, very apparent that while someone at RiteAid had this big idea of marketing to their pharmacy customers, they had a huge "ineptitude barrier" to break down before being capable of doing it with any kind of finesse. And, now, following this Walgreens incident, well, I don't like to even think about who had access to our prescription information. It probably depends on how greedy the pharmacy or the pharmaceutical companies are. Scary!

Isn't this a fitting warning to anyone thinking of personal, one-on-one marketing to rethink it and consider long and hard how the message is received and who is delivering it? I'll bet all those people who are in hot water now wish they had their own Prozac prescription! The delivery of each of these medical misfortunes was screwed up because the ones with the big idea didn't put enough thought and expertise and sensitivity behind it, and instead, they tried to treat something very personal like a sale on socks or soda pop!

Carol Worthington Levy, Creative director, MarketingBank


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