October 25, 2011
By Mike Adams
As the fraudulent flu shot season is in full swing, retailers who profit from hawking deadly flu shots are resorting to the most bizarre and obnoxious marketing tactics yet devised to convince people to poison themselves with flu shots. As we’ve already documented here on NaturalNews, Walgreens stores are using incentive prizes like iPad awards for employees who push the most flu shots on customers.
A CVS pharmacy has been caught using life-sized grim reapers to promote its own flu shot vaccines.
Safeway stores are announcing 10% discounts on grocery purchases for those who agree to be injected with these flu shot vaccines, which admittedly contain toxic chemical adjuvants and neurological disruptors that can cause permanent neurological damage.
“Yeah, sure, I might experience random seizures and blurred vision now, but I saved 10% on my groceries!”
$500 in prizes for the winners of our flu shot propaganda photo contest!
To expose the unscrupulous propaganda and quackery of the vaccine industry — which has devolved into a bunch of retail snake oil hucksters poisoning the public for profit — we are launching the first ever “flu shot propaganda picture contest!”
To enter the contest, simply snap a photo of flu shot promotions you see somewhere, then email them to us at email@example.com using the subject line “FLU SHOT PICTURE ENTRY”.
The pictures must be TRUE and real — no Photoshopped pictures are allowed, please, and no montages or other compilations. Just a real snapshot of a flu shot advertising sign or propaganda campaign of some sort.
We will sort through all the pictures sent to us and pick the top dozen or so for a reader vote. Then we will invite the readers to vote on their favorite pictures.
The top 3 pictures receiving the most votes win!
First prize: $250 gift certificate at the NaturalNews Store.
Second prize: $150 gift certificate at the NaturalNews Store.
Third prize: $100 gift certificate at the NaturalNews Store.
Again, to enter the contest, just email your snapshots to firstname.lastname@example.org and use “FLU SHOT PICTURE ENTRY” as the subject line of your email.
1) The picture must have been taken by you, not grabbed off the internet.
2) The picture must be real, not staged, and not Photoshopped beyond basic brightness and contrast adjustments.
3) Contest entries must be received by Friday, November 4, 2011.
4) No VIDEOS. This is for photos only, please. (We may do a video contest later on.)
5) The prize gift certificates are redeemable at the NaturalNews Store, and can be used to buy anything you’d like there, including items already on sale.
6) The contest is open to anyone, anywhere in the world. But the flu shot propaganda itself needs to be in English (if there’s any text in the picture).
7) You agree to allow us to publish any photo you submit. The whole point of this is to share these photos across the ‘net to show how ridiculous and obnoxious the flu shot industry has become.
How to win
We are looking for the most obnoxious flu shot propaganda you can find. The Grim Reapers holding the flu shot sign was pretty funny. Can you find something even more obnoxious?
Can you find examples of outright lies in flu shot marketing propaganda? (Claims that flu shots “protect you from the flu” are pure quackery, for example.)
Use your creativity! We’re looking for photos that evoke a strong emotional response, either of hilarity or disgust.
There probably won’t be a huge number of entries, so by submitting just one photo to us, you have a realistic chance of winning the top prizes!
Go ahead and send your entries to email@example.com — please LIMIT your attached photos to 10mb or smaller, or your email will automatically bounce.
We can’t wait to see (and share) your photos. Thank you for participating!
P.S. If you want to be ANONYMOUS, then submit your name as ANONYMOUS with the photo. If you want name credit, then submit your name as you’d like us to credit you. We will gladly credit the winners with a name and website URL.
October 17, 2011
By Mike Adams
Accounts are pouring in to NaturalNews that Walgreens customers feel they are being verbally harassed by Walgreens employees at the checkout counter over flu shots. Multiple accounts from NaturalNews readers describe aggressive verbal harassment by Walgreens employees who appear to be “over the top” in pushing flu shots, even onto pregnant women!
“I get my scripts filled at Walgreens so they know me real well at the one I go to,” one reader told NaturalNews. “When I was pregnant they kept trying to push one on me and I kept refusing them.”
Several readers who say they are Walgreens employees have also reported to NaturalNews — and requested anonymity out of fear of losing their jobs — that they were being rewarded with incentives or threatened with reprimands if they met a certain “goal” of pushing a certain number of customers into getting flu shots. “I have been told that I have to push the flu shot on my customers, arrange flu shot clinics at off-site locations and draw up flu shots to give to the customers,” one person who claimed to be a Walgreens employee told NaturalNews. They added, “Please don’t blame the employees who are asking about the flu shot, they are having their jobs threatened,” indicating the existence of a feeling of intimidation by their employer.
“Another employee informed me that they do not receive bonuses but will receive write ups and threats if they forget to ask each customer who enters their stores if they want a flu shot,” says blogger Aydan in Oak Park, California
“A Walgreen’s employee who checked me out yesterday asked if I had gotten my flu shot,” reports another NaturalNews reader. “I said no. She pressed me to get it. Then, she added that their entire staff was going to be rewarded with iPads when they met their quota.”
CVS pharmacies also appear to be using employees to push flu shots: “I work for CVS and they are making us wear shirts that say get your flu shot today, and [they give a] 50 dollar bonus for whoever has the most sales. I hate my job…” says another NaturalNews reader.
I called Walgreens media relations department to ask whether this pushing of flu shots onto customers was a corporate policy. There, I spoke with Robert Elfinger, a media relations representative for Walgreens. He said he was unaware of any corporate policy asking employees to verbally promote vaccines. He also stated he was unaware of any complaints from customers about Walgreens employees wanting people to get flu shots. So this is neither a denial nor a confirmation of anything; it just says that the Walgreens media relations department isn’t aware of any of this.
Let’s get ‘em in the loop on this, shall we? A lot of people are not happy about how they are being treated at the Walgreens checkout counter. Some Walgreens stores are reportedly getting very aggressive with their pushing of vaccines onto customers, so we have decided to launch a public complaint campaign called Stop the Walgreens Flu Shot Harassment!
This campaign also encompasses CVS pharmacies, by the way (see below), which has its own special ways of pushing flu shot vaccines onto customers.
Lodge your complaint with Walgreens and CVS
Were you verbally bullied by a Walgreens employee over a flu shot? Did you feel uncomfortably pressured, or were you scowled at when you said NO to the flu shot?
Lodge a complaint with Walgreens!
Call their customer service line at: (800) 925-4733
You can also write Walgreens (as in sending a physical letter) at:
Walgreen Company Consumer Relations
1411 Lake Cook Rd, Mail Stop #L428
Deerfield, IL 60015
If you wish to lodge a complaint with CVS pharmacies about being bullied over flu shot marketing aggression, contact them here:
Call the CVS customer service line at: (800) 746-7287
Important tips for submitting complaints: Do not submit complaints to Walgreens from your work computer. Your own employer may track your internet usage and actually punish you for opposing vaccines! (Many employers receive kickbacks from vaccine retailers for “recruiting” their employees for flu shots. We’ll be reporting more on that in the coming days.)
Also, remember that if you submit your email address to Walgreens, they will have your email and they might theoretically use it to email you things like flu shot special offers, for example. So I encourage people to use anonymous emails or “throwaway” email addresses acquired through services such as Hotmail or Yahoo.
June 30th, 2011
By: Deanese Williams-Harris
An Arlington Heights man was fined $500 after he turned in $17,000 but lied about how and where he actually found the cash, police said today.
Robert Adams, 54, was cited today for filing a false report with the Rolling Meadows Police Department.
On the evening of June 6, Adams found a Chase Bank bag full of cash totaling about $17,000 near a Walgreens ATM in Midlothian, police said. Instead of turning the cash in at that location, Adams drove to Rolling Meadows and turned in the bag at a Chase Bank. He later told police he found the cash outside a newspaper stand in Rolling Meadows.
After investigators reviewed video surveillance, they discovered Adams found the money in Midlothian, according to Rolling Meadows Police Sgt. Tony Gaspari in a news release.
When reached by phone Wednesday night, Adams said he felt more comfortable turning the cash in to Rolling Meadows officials and filing the report with Rolling Meadows police.
“I know now a little better than I knew then,” he said. “I feel very badly and understand why I should have told the truth.”
Adams said it was a hot day and he just wanted to get home. “I wasn’t looking for a reward. I was just doing the right thing,” he said.
Adams said he was told Wednesday he had to pay a $500 fine for filing a false report. “I accept the fine. I’m very sorry about this whole thing.”
June 27th, 2011
By: Mike Adams
Ask somebody about sunscreen and you’re likely to receive an earful of disinformation from a person who has been repeatedly misinformed by health authorities and the mainstream media. Almost nothing you hear about sunscreen from traditional media channels is accurate. So here’s a quick guide to the 7 most important things you need to know about sunscreen, sunlight and vitamin D:
#1) The FDA refuses to allow natural sunscreen ingredients to be used in sunblock / sunscreen products
It’s true: If you create a truly natural sunscreen product using exotic botanicals with powerful sunscreen properties, you will never be able to market it as a “sunscreen” product. That’s because the FDA decides what can be used as sunscreen and what can’t, regardless of what really works in the real world. And there are really only two natural ingredients the FDA has allowed to be sold as sunscreen: Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Any other non-chemical sunscreen ingredients, if sold as “sunscreen,” would be considered mislabeled by the FDA and result in your products being confiscated… even if they offer fantastic sunscreen protection!
Not surprisingly, this whole monopoly over sunscreen chemicals is designed to protect the profits of the chemical companies while marginalizing the natural product companies which could easily formulate far better solutions. I have personally spoken to the founders of several health product companies who have figured out amazing sunscreen formulations using nothing but natural botanicals, but the FDA won’t let them market their products as sunscreen products!
It’s just another example of the FDA standing in the way of health innovation.
#2) Nearly all conventional sunscreen products contain cancer-causing chemicals
Read the ingredients list of any sunscreen product sold at Wal-Mart, or Walgreens, or any other mainstream store. I dare ya!
You will not be able to pronounce most of the chemicals found in the ingredients list. That’s because most sunscreen products are formulated with cancer-causing fragrance chemicals, parabens, harsh alcohols, toxic chemical solvents and petroleum oils. A typical sunscreen product is actually a chemical assault on your body. That’s why research shows that using sunscreen actually causes more cancer than it prevents.
#3) In a nation where over 70% of the population is vitamin D deficiency, sunscreen actually blocks vitamin D production
Vitamin D deficiency is perhaps the most widespread vitamin deficiency in North America. According to the research, 70 percent of whites are deficient in vitamin D, and up to 97 percent of blacks are deficient.
Chronic vitamin D deficiency promotes cancer, winter flu and infections, depression, osteoporosis and hormonal imbalances. Depending on whom you believe, vitamin D alone can prevent anywhere from 50% to nearly 80% of all cancers.
By blocking vitamin D production in the skin, sunscreen products actually contribute to cancer-promoting nutritional deficiencies.
This doesn’t mean you should never wear a sunscreen product, of course. If your skin is really pale and you’re planning a day on the beach in Hawaii, you will obviously benefit from some level of sun protection using a truly natural sunscreen product. But an informed health-conscious person would try to allow their skin to achieve a natural, healthy tan (yes, a tan truly is healthy if it’s combined with good nutrition, see below) through sensible exposure levels that activate vitamin D production in the skin.
#4) You can boost your internal sun resistance by changing what you eat
Here’s the real secret about sun exposure that no one in conventional medicine is talking about (because, as usual, they are woefully ignorant about nutrition): You can boost your internal sunscreen by eating antioxidant-rich foods and superfoods.
The supplement astaxanthin, for example, is very well known for boosting your skin’s natural resistance to sunburn. Its fat-soluble carotenoids are actually transported to skin cells where they protect those cells from UV exposure.
The more natural antioxidants you have in your diet, the more sunlight your skin will be able to handle without burning. Nearly everyone mistakenly believes that a person’s sunlight burn response is purely a genetic factor. They’re wrong. You can radically improve your resistance to UV exposure through radical dietary changes.
I’m a great example of this, actually, as I used to burn in just 20 – 30 minutes of sunlight when I was on a junk food diet years ago. But now, as someone who eats superfoods and high-end nutritional supplements every day, I can spend hours in the sun and will only turn slightly red (which fades a few hours later and does not result in a burn or skin peeling).
Except for one time on an all-day visit to a water park, I have not worn sunscreen in over 8 years. I spend a large amount of time in the sun, and I have absolutely no concerns whatsoever about skin cancer. My skin, most people tell me, looks significantly younger than my biological age. That’s not from sunscreen; it’s from nutrition. Sun exposure does not make your skin “age” if you follow a high-nutritional density diet.
March 18, 2010
By: Janet I. Tu
Effective April 16, Walgreens drugstores across the state won’t take any new Medicaid patients, saying that filling their prescriptions is a money-losing proposition â€” the latest development in an ongoing dispute over Medicaid reimbursement.
The company, which operates 121 stores in the state, will continue filling Medicaid prescriptions for current patients.
In a news release, Walgreens said its decision to not take new Medicaid patients stemmed from a “continued reduction in reimbursement” under the state’s Medicaid program, which reimburses it at less than the break-even point for 95 percent of brand-name medications dispensed to Medicaid patents.
Walgreens follows Bartell Drugs, which stopped taking new Medicaid patients last month at all 57 of its stores in Washington, though it still fills Medicaid prescriptions for existing customers at all but 15 of those stores.
Doug Porter, the state’s director of Medicaid, said Medicaid recipients should be able to readily find another pharmacy because “we have many more pharmacy providers in our network than we need” for the state’s 1 million Medicaid clients.
He said those who can’t can contact the state’s Medical Assistance Customer Service Center at 1-800-562-3022 for help in locating one.
Along with Walgreens and Bartell, the Ritzville Drug Company in Adams County announced in November that it would stop participating in Medicaid.
Fred Meyer and Safeway said their pharmacies would continue to serve existing Medicaid patients and to take new ones, though both expressed concern that the reimbursement rate is too low for pharmacies to make a profit.
The amount private insurers and Medicaid pay pharmacies for prescriptions isn’t the actual cost of those drugs but rather is based on what’s called the drug’s estimated average wholesale price. But that figure is more like the sticker price on a car than its actual wholesale cost.
Washington was reimbursing pharmacies 86 percent of a drug’s average wholesale price until July, when it began paying them just 84 percent. While pharmacies weren’t happy about the reimbursement reduction, the Department of Social and Health Services said that move was expected to save the state about $10 million.
Then in September came another blow. The average wholesale price is calculated by a private company, which was accused in a Massachusetts lawsuit of fraudulently inflating its figures. The company did not admit wrongdoing but agreed in a court settlement to ratchet its figures down by about 4 percent.
That agreement took effect in September â€” and prompted a lawsuit by a group of pharmacies and trade associations that said Washington state didn’t follow federal law in setting its reimbursement rate, and that that rate is too low. The lawsuit is pending.
“Washington state Medicaid is now reimbursing pharmacies less than their cost of participation,” said Jeff Rochon, CEO of the Washington State Pharmacy Association.
Pharmacies that continue to fill Medicaid prescriptions at the current state reimbursement rate are “at risk of putting themselves out of business altogether,” he said.
February 17, 2010
By Parija Kavilanz
Don’t be shocked if you can’t find your favorite salad dressing or mouthwash on your next trip to Wal-Mart.
Large retailers — including Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), the world’s biggest — are wrestling with having too many types of brand-name products. At the same time, shoppers are buying less and looking for bargains.
So unless a particular brand is a top seller in its category, it’s getting knocked off the shelf — and sometimes getting replaced by a cheaper store brand.
For example, Wal-Mart recently removed Glad and Hefty-branded storage bags from shelves, replacing them with its own lower-priced Great Value brand, according to the parent companies of both products.
In the case of Hefty, parent Pactiv Corp. (PTV) told CNNMoney.com that Wal-Mart reversed its decision, and will return its products to shelves this spring — after Pactiv agreed to make the Great Value bags that will sell alongside the competing Hefty product.
“Hefty was off Wal-Mart’s shelves, but we are being brought back,” said Matt Gonring, spokesman for Pactiv Corp.
Bill Pecoriello, CEO of market research firm ConsumerEdge Research, expects Wal-Mart and other sellers will trim several name-brands across categories in coming months, or negotiate deals to get better pricing.
According to Pecoriello, those categories at greatest risk of losing brands are everyday-type purchases such as household products, toiletries and food staples.
These are also categories in which retailers have aggressively pushed their own house brands.
“If you consider the economics of this, if Wal-Mart can build customer loyalty for its own brand, which is also cheaper-priced and cheaper to stock than name-brands, then it will,” he said.
Moves such as this are significant given Wal-Mart’s heavyweight status in the retail industry.
“Any change that Wal-Mart makes with its product assortment has enormous implications for the entire industry,” said Ali Dibadj, senior analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
Wal-Mart declined comment for this story.
Wal-Mart is not the only one doing this, according to Dibadj. He says leading drug store chains, including CVS and Walgreens, grocers such as Kroger (KR, Fortune 500), and Wal-Mart’s rival discounter, Target (TGT, Fortune 500), are also looking to simplify their store shelves.
In good economic times, product variety is a must for retailers. But in down times, when shoppers aren’t buying much, variety can be a burden.
“Wal-Mart’s a little fed up,” said Lora Cecera, retail expert and partner at strategy consulting firm Altimeter Group. “I think the feeling is that as these companies keep extending their [product] lines, it’s only causing confusion for shoppers and not really driving them to buy more products.”
As a consumer, she asked, “Do I really need to decide between 15 different types of toothpaste when I go to a store?”
Dawn Willoughby, vice president-general manager of Glad brand for the Clorox Co. (CLX, Fortune 500), agreed.
“On an industry level, we’ve been talking about simplifying product assortment for a long time,” said Willoughby. “If you walk into a Wal-Mart or another large retail chain, there are so many products on shelves that it does make it harder to shop.”
Let’s make a deal
Besides cutting clutter, industry experts say Wal-Mart and other retailers are looking for more lucrative deals from suppliers on both prices and advertising.
In one recent example, according to published reports, Wal-Mart removed Arm & Hammer liquid laundry detergent from most of its stores. But the discounter brought back the product after Arm & Hammer boosted its advertising for the product at Wal-Mart.
Arm & Hammer parent Church & Dwight (CHD) did not return calls for comment. Other consumer product makers — including Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble — either declined comment or did not return calls.
Said Dibadj, “Perhaps one consideration in which product to cut is based on which company gives [Wal-Mart] the best deal.”
Citing the Hefty example, he said “these threats can become quite aggressive, such as delisting and subsequent relisting after a compromise.
Altimeter Group’s Cecera believes consumers stand to win from the retailers’ moves.
“In this recession, consumers have certainly become less discriminating with what they buy,” said Cecera. “Consumers have rushed to value prices, and they are buying generic brands.”
She said retailers’ own brands have grown their market share by between 2% to 6%.
This newfound affection for store brands is “sticking,” said Dibadj. He cites his firm’s recent survey finding that 77% of consumers who traded down to less expensive private label products are happy with their decision.
December 15, 2009
By Marrecca Fiore
Starting Tuesday, the Tennessee counties of Memphis and Shelby will begin administering H1N1 vaccine to everyone who wants it, joining several other municipalities across the country that have already opened access or are considering doing so.
“I get the sense that more areas are starting to vaccinate outside the priority groups,” said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Skinner said federal officials have been clear in their desire to have priority groups, such as pregnant women and children, vaccinated first.
“But federal guidelines also give states the flexibility to vaccinate outside the priority groups if the states feel that’s the best thing to do given the issues surrounding supply and demand at the local level,” Skinner said.
States are in the best position to make the call to open the vaccine to everyone, Skinner said, adding that more states will be vaccinating outside the priority groups in the coming weeks and months as more of it becomes available.
“There will come a time when everyone will have access to it,” he said.
The H1N1 vaccine became available in the U.S. in early October, about a month after schools and colleges opened. By mid-month, 14 million doses of the vaccine were available, about half of what the U.S. expected to have received from manufacturers.
A top Dallas County (Texas) health official on Saturday called for distribution of the H1N1 vaccine to everyone, as more vaccine appears to be headed toward North Texas pharmacies.
The move comes as interest in obtaining the shot by high-risk groups appears to be waning.
Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, told the Dallas Morning News he was concerned that the vaccine supply already shared with local pharmacies had not found enough takers among the targeted high-risk groups.
A spot check of local pharmacies by The Dallas Morning News last week found that some stores still had hundreds of shots available for people in high-risk groups.
In addition to local pharmacies, chain drugstores including Walgreens and CVS are offering the vaccines in Dallas County.
Walgreens, which is distributing vaccine in 25-30 states, is complying with federal guidelines and immunizing only high-risk groups against the virus, said spokesman Jim Cohn. He said the company would be willing to offer the vaccinations to everyone if that were the directive of the municipal health department.
“We work on a state-by-state and county-by-county basis,” he said. “In some cases, we’re sitting and waiting for the vaccine. In other cases, the (municipal) government came to us early on and asked us to be part of the supply chain so that the vaccine could be distributed as efficiently as possible. We would like to be able to receive and offer vaccine in all 50 states and it is becoming more widely available as time goes on.”
Despite reports of an H1N1 virus mutation in Norway, a federal health official said Tuesday that the H1N1 vaccine is well-matched and still a person’s best defense against the virus.
“We have not seen clusters of resistance,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The cases reported are interesting, but they are not of concern.”
Frieden said the H1N1 virus is gradually decreasing in the United States, but is still widespread in 32 states and people should remain vigilant.
“Although the flu is going down,” Frieden said, “it’s far from gone. … And flu season lasts until May so there’s still a lot of time to see what will happen.”
The CDC polled 12 health experts who were split as to whether the country will see another surge of H1N1 this flu season.
“One (expert) said flip a coin,” Frieden said. “We don’t know what the future will hold. … What we do know is that the vaccine is the very best way to protect yourself.”
August 9, 2009
New York Times
By Milt Freudenheim
More than 10 years after she tried without success to have a baby, Marcy Campbell Krinsk is still receiving painful reminders in her mail. The ads and promotions started after she bought fertility drugs at a pharmacy in San Diego.
Marketers got hold of her name, and she found coupons and samples in her mail that shadowed the growth of an imaginary child — at first, for Pampers and baby formula, then for discounts on family photos, and all the way through the years to gifts suitable for an elementary school graduate.
“I had three different in vitro procedures,” said Ms. Krinsk, now 55, a former telecommunications executive who lives with her husband in San Diego. “To just go to the mailbox and get that stuff, time after time after time, it was just awful.”
Like many other people, Ms. Krinsk thought that her prescription information was private. But in fact, prescriptions, and all the information on them — including not only the name and dosage of the drug and the name and address of the doctor, but also the patient’s address and Social Security number — are a commodity bought and sold in a murky marketplace, often without the patients’ knowledge or permission.
That may change if some little-noted protections from the Obama administration are strictly enforced. The federal stimulus law enacted in February prohibits in most cases the sale of personal health information, with a few exceptions for research and public health measures like tracking flu epidemics. It also tightens rules for telling patients when hackers or health care workers have stolen their Social Security numbers or medical information, as happened to Britney Spears, Maria Shriver and Farrah Fawcett before she died in June.
“The new rules will plug some gaping holes in our federal health privacy laws,” said Deven McGraw, a health privacy expert at the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington. “For the first time, pharmacy benefit managers that handle most prescriptions and banks and contractors that process millions of medical claims will be held accountable for complying with federal privacy and security rules.”
The law won’t shut down the medical data mining industry, but there will be more restrictions on using private information without patients’ consent and penalties for civil violations will be increased. Government agencies are still writing new regulations called for in the law.
Ms. Krinsk was never able to find out who sold her information, but companies that have been accused in lawsuits of buying and selling personal medical data include drugstore chains like Walgreens and data-mining companies like IMS Health and Verispan. CVS Caremark, which handles prescriptions for corporate clients, has also been accused of violating patients’ privacy.
These companies all say that names of patients are removed or encrypted before data is sold, typically to drug manufacturers.
But as Ms. Krinsk’s case shows, there are leaks in the system.
Before the changes, privacy regulations mainly applied to hospitals and doctors. Enforcement was weak, and there were lots of loopholes.
Privacy experts cite research by Latanya Sweeney, director of the Data Privacy Lab at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which shows that a computer-savvy snooper can easily match names, addresses, Social Security numbers and so on to “re-identify” information that had supposedly been rendered anonymous.
“Our biggest concern is the complete lack of protection against re-identifying data that was supposed to be anonymous and secure,” Ms. McGraw said.
Tracking prescriptions has been a big business for decades. Data miners say their research is valuable because gathering and analyzing information from thousands of people helps identify trends and provides indications of potentially dangerous side effects of drugs.