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Consumer Group Alleges Albertsons Sold Rx Info

BOISE, Idaho - Albertsons, Inc. has been hit by a suit from San Diego, Calif.-based consumer advocacy group Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, which accuses the retailer of selling prescription information to drug companies without informing customers.

Although the suit was filed in May in San Diego Superior Court, it was only publicized by the consumer group late last week. The suit seeks not only to force Albertsons to end the alleged practice, but also unspecified monetary damages for what it calls "unfair business practices and deceptive advertising."

The group alleges that Albertsons and its pharmacy units, SavOn Drug Stores, Osco Drug, and Jewel Osco, share customer names, addresses, telephone numbers, and prescription medication information, which is allegedly used to solicit customers by mail or phone. The suit additionally names 18 drug companies, among them GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Eli Lilly & Co., Merck & Co., Novartis AG, Wyeth Corp., and AstraZeneca PLC.

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse contends that the drug manufacturers used the information to persuade customers to renew their prescriptions or switch to other medicines. The suit claims that the drug companies either create or OK the sales pitches, which are performed by Albertsons or a direct marketing company.

Albertsons has strenuously denied the charges. According to company spokeswoman Karen Ramos, "We highly value and respect the privacy of our pharmacy customers and do not sell, nor have we ever sold, their private information. We consider the allegations in this complaint to be false and totally without merit -- and we will vigorously defend ourselves against them."

Albertsons' 2,000 U.S. pharmacies fill more than 130 million prescriptions annually, according to the company.
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