I received this following letter on October 2, 2004:
On September 30, 2004, the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. announced a voluntary recall of its drug Vioxx. This recall is worldwide and effective immediately.
New research done in patients at risk of developing recurrent colon polyps suggested an increased relative risk for confirmed cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, in patients beginning after 18 months of treatment with Vioxx, when compared to those taking a placebo.
CDPHP (my health plan) has identified that you have had at least one prescription claim for Vioxx within the last six months.
If you are currently using Vioxx (I'm not; it didn't help), CDPHP recommends that you contact your prescribing practitioner as soon as possible to discuss an appropriate alternative therapy for Vioxx.
CDPHP will also be notifying your practitioner of this recall and will provide a list of our members for whom he/she has prescribed Vioxx for in the last six months.
If you have any questions regarding the coverage of an alternative to Vioxx, as recommended by your practitioner, please call the CDPHP member services department at the number found on your CDPHP identification card.
James Figge, MD, MBA
Chair, Pharmacy & Therapeutics Committee
Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, Inc.
Note that it took exactly two days for me to receive the notice after the recall. That is, CDPHP took account of the Merck decision, went through its own decision process, ran the data to determine who should be notified, and sent the notice. They must have done it within a day or less in order for me to get the letter when I did.
Now let's note who I did not hear from. I did not hear from my pharmacy, which does have an automated system (of some type) and I did not hear from my physician who uses paper records. It will be interesting to see if I do hear from his office even after they get the list from CDPHP (though in fairness, I ran through one prescription and we moved on to something else and that would be in the record).
At a certain level this process is not a big deal. It was clear, quick and simple. But it was the keeper of the data that got it done. And for all that they are abused, it was the health plan, no one else that got it done. This is using electronic data to help improve the care of large numbers of people quickly and to do so without a lot of effort. Writ large, this is what needs to happen pervasively and the only ones who can do it are those with the data.
And for those who must know, it was my shoulder. CDPHP did pay for a MRI, two specialty visits and a bunch of physical therapy. There was no tear, but significant swelling and a very significant reduction in range of motion. The orthopedist got me a cortisone shot and some stringent PT and it's much improved, thank you.