The Iowa Department of Public Health is alerting Iowans to marketing phone calls offering prescriptions for pain relief creams or braces/devices. According to Iowa Board of Pharmacy Director Andrew Funk, third-party marketing firms are calling Iowans and asking if they are experiencing any pain; for instance, joint or back pain. In some cases, the call is initiated based on an online survey completed by the consumer.

As the conversation goes on, the sales representative collects the patient's date of birth, prescriber's name and, in some instances, their city of birth (which, in-turn may be used to "guess" the patient's social security number in an attempt to obtain the patient's third-party insurance information). They are then informed that a prescription topical cream or prescription brace or device may help alleviate the pain/discomfort.

The patient agrees (but isn't always sure what they're agreeing to) and the marketing firm sends a prescription request to the prescriber to sign, which gets routed to a pharmacy with which the marketing company has a contract and is likely completely unknown to the patient (historically, these have been pharmacies outside Iowa). In many cases, the prescription drug has been pre-selected by an employee of the marketing firm who likely is not a health care practitioner.

Typically, these prescriptions are submitted to the patient's insurance and oftentimes amount to tens of thousands of dollars.

IDPH wants Iowans to know about this tactic and reminds them to be wary of divulging any personal information over the internet or phone (including date and city of birth). Patients should speak directly with their prescribers about effective pain relief solutions.  Additionally, prescribers need to be diligent when reviewing prescription requests, especially for topical pain creams, braces or devices that come in via fax from a pharmacy out of state or unknown to the prescriber.

IDPH News Release