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Suddenly, Googling 'Toe Nail Fungus' Seems Like a Mistake

Data miners are scouring the Internet for information that consumers have put out there about their medical conditions and are packaging all that data for sale, Bloomberg Businessweek reports.

The going rate for a database of 2.2 million households with a person Alzheimer's disease is 15 cents per name, while a list of 1.2 million people who take medication for depression costs 9.5 cents per name, Bloomberg Businessweek notes.

If people have revealed their medical information to a third party, then privacy laws like the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act don't apply. Sources for these databases, Bloomberg Businessweek reports, include surveys, website registrations, and retail purchases.

Such information, it adds, is increasingly important for drug companies and device makers seeking to target a specific population.

"As new launches occur in specialty therapies, there is more value with each patient, but the patient is harder to find, as the disease is not widespread," Pratap Khedkar from ZS Associates, a sales and marketing firm, tells Bloomberg Businessweek. "Targeted marketing to patients becomes more important, and marketers have been turning to multiple ways to find the right consumers and patients, using data to locate them."