Fishing for patient plaintiffs

My caller id revealed I received numerous calls in the past few weeks from multiple phone numbers and area codes, but all with the same name of “Xarelto Claims”.  Of course, I knew from the start this had to be one of those ‘Have you been harmed?’ law firms but as a patient advocate, I was curious and decided to talk to them.

What is Xarelto?  Xarelto is the brand name for the FDA approved anticoagulant (blood thinner) rivaroxaban. It is used to treat and prevent blood clots: to reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation and to treat/prevent venous thromboembolism (deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism).  It is marketed in the US by Janssen Pharmaceuticals. 

When ‘Xarelto Claims’ called next time, I answered.  A recording indicated the call was from the nebulous name ‘Legal System Review’ and I was then transferred to speak with someone who had important information related to my health.

A nice, but scripted woman, came on the line–with classic call center sounds in the background.  She informed me that I could be a VICTIM and was due COMPENSATION because I’d been exposed to a BAD DRUG and that if after her screening questions I was found to be eligible for FREE LEGAL SERVICES I would be put in touch with a case manager and injury attorney in my area.

I asked her how her company obtained my personal medical information to know I’d taken a blood thinner.  She said that I’d indicated I wanted to received information from them.

Nope, I certainly did no such thing…try again. I asked again, how do you know my prescription history?

Again, she was insistent I had somehow opted in to receive a call from her company.  She then asked me to confirm that I’d taken Xarelto.

As a blood clot patient for 13 years, I’ve taken six different anticoagulants (oral and injectible) and so I could honestly answer yes in going along with this call.  I asked her ‘Is there a problem with this drug?”

She said, “oh you’ve obviously not heard about the issues” and with such great concern for me and my health she informed me about how it is ‘under investigation’ for numerous harms.

She next asked me if I’d experienced any excessive bleeding resulting in a whole host of nastily described issues (including death).  Um, nope I’m on the call and alive and well, thanks.  No issues to report.

< CLICK >  She hung up.   As soon as I said I’d not had any major bleeding, she didn’t even say goodbye but disconnected the line.

Clearly these companies are not truly concerned about the health of the people they call when they intentionally put the fear of injury and death into a patient and then drop them like hot lava when they find out they can’t get a litigation dime out of them.  Yet far too many patients are lured in by the scam and become afraid to take their medication not understanding that ALL anticoagulants (blood thinners) can cause bleeding.  Bleeding is a known, fundamental side effect of ANY blood thinner…they work to help prevent clots in your body because they increase the time it takes for blood to form a clot. Now, there are differences in potential risk for bleeding among the various anticoagulants and differences in their ability to be reversed in the event of an emergent situation. And, some drugs are newer and thus there is less real-world experience in their management.  Still, on the most basic level, all anticoagulants come with a risk of bleeding.

You can’t escape the ads and the message they instill. I even had a family member call me once to ask “please tell me you’re not taking XYZ drug” because she had seen an ad in the newspaper about ‘serious side effects’.  What makes me truly sad is that far more money in our society goes towards mis-educating patients than towards educating patients.  I can say this with confidence as I directed a thrombosis patient education program until funds for such ran out because ‘education isn’t profitable’.  I rather doubt the injury attorneys have this problem…if they can afford to buy lists of patients to robocall and take out prolific media ads, they are clearly finding enough plaintiffs to make the endeavor profitable.

To be clear, patient harm is a real thing and I don’t wish to diminish that fact.  Yet my observation is that following a legitimate harm, it is the patient and family who are fired up enough to proactively go out and seek resolution and restitution. They don’t sit by and wait for an attorney to robocall them before deciding to take action…they find their own counsel, they get engaged with nonprofits, they promote education, they try to make the system safer for the next patient coming along.

These aggressive personal injury attorneys are merely seeking warm bodies to add to their portfolio–to convince patients who were otherwise perfectly ok with their treatment regime that if they merely say the right thing, they might be able to profit. Such activity is a detriment to patients who are truly harmed and it increases the health care costs for all of us.

So how did a personal injury attorney learn my prescription history or at least narrow me down as a person who ‘might’ be taking an anticoagulant?  No way to know for certain, but it will surprise many to know that prescription history is not necessarily private.  According to the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights:

“Q. Are my prescriptions private?
A. No. All 51,000 pharmacies in the U.S. are wired for data mining. You cannot keep your prescriptions private, even if you pay cash. Selling prescription records is a multi-billion dollar a year industry: In 2006 IMS Health reported revenues of $2 Billion for selling prescription records (that’s just one company!).”

In fairness, data mining information is supposed to be stripped of personal identification..such as name….yet, even with allowable aggregate data (prescription, town, physician name) it is not difficult for a marketer to do some cross referencing and narrow down a target demographic profile.

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