US Supreme Court to hear case on prescription drug data mining

The US Supreme Court announced that it will review whether laws adopted by Vermont that prohibit data mining companies from marketing information about physicians' drug prescriptions violate constitutional free-speech rights. The court will begin hearing oral arguments in the case in April, with a final ruling expected in June.

Currently, all states allow pharmacies to collect and pass along data about the prescribing habits of physicians. However, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire have enacted laws in recent years that ban any use or publication of such information for "marketing purposes" unless a physician provides consent. Similar measures have been proposed in about 25 states, but the three New England states are the only ones to have adopted them to date.

In November, a federal appeals court sided with IMS Health, Verispan and Source Healthcare Analytics and struck down Vermont's Pharmaceutical Confidentiality Law, ruling that the laws contained "a commercial speech restriction that does not directly advance the substantial state interests asserted by Vermont." However, a different appeals court upheld similar laws in the two other states. Vermont, the three companies and PhRMA all urged the Supreme Court to decide the issue because of the conflicting lower court rulings.

In its appeal to the high court, Vermont officials said that "the legislature found that restricting the availability of prescribing data for use in marketing would protect medical privacy, help control health care costs, and protect public health and safety." However, data mining companies responded that such laws "harm patients by making it more difficult to communicate timely and often vital information about new medicine and safety updates on existing medicine."

To read more Top Story articles, click here.