KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Justices Question Vermont’s Effort To Restrict Drug Data Mining

During Tuesday's oral arguments, the justices suggested that the state law, which restricts pharmaceutical marketers' ability to obtain data on doctor prescribing habits, may violate free-speech rights.

The Washington Post: Supreme Court Skeptical That Prescription Data Laws Don't Violate Free Speech
Several Supreme Court justices strongly suggested during oral arguments Tuesday that Vermont's attempt to restrict the use of drug prescription records for marketing purposes violates corporate free-speech rights (Barnes, 4/26).

The Wall Street Journal: Justices Question Drug-Sales Law
Supreme Court justices Tuesday sharply questioned Vermont's effort to restrict pharmaceutical marketers from obtaining data on doctors' prescribing habits. The 2007 state law, passed at the Vermont Medical Society's behest, aims to blunt a powerful marketing tool and a pharmacy revenue stream made possible through computer data-mining (Bravin, 4/27).

The New York Times: Justices' Debate Turns To Privacy For Doctors
A somewhat esoteric Supreme Court case on Tuesday about data mining by drug companies turned into a debate over a fundamental First Amendment principle that has much engaged the justices lately: What role may the government play in regulating the marketplace of ideas? (Liptak, 4/26).

Los Angeles Times: Justices Weigh Privacy And Drug Marketing
Government lawyers defending limits on the marketing of new drugs ran into sharply skeptical questions Tuesday at the Supreme Court from conservative justices who said the 1st Amendment protected the free-speech rights of drug makers to market their products directly to doctors (Savage, 4/27).

NPR: Court Hears Arguments In Data Mining Case
Government regulations require pharmacies to keep records of all doctors' prescriptions. In most states, pharmacies can and do sell these records to data mining companies - companies that in turn sell the information to drugmakers for use in targeted sales pitches to doctors. When doctors in Vermont found out their prescription records were being sold this way, they went to the state Legislature, and the state enacted a law barring the practice. The data miners and the pharmaceutical industry challenged the law in court (Totenberg, 4/26).

The Associated Press: Court Questions Limits On Use Of Prescription Data
The Supreme Court cast doubt Tuesday on efforts by states to limit drug manufacturers' use of information about the prescription drugs that doctors like to prescribe. The court took up a dispute between the state of Vermont and companies that sell doctors' prescribing information to pharmaceutical companies, though without patient names. The drug makers use the data to tailor their pitch to individual doctors. The Vermont law had prevented the sale of information about individual doctors' prescribing records without the doctors' permission (4/26).

PBS Newshour: Supreme Court Considers Prescription Privacy Case
Should states be allowed to impose restrictions on drug companies that use purchased private prescription information to market their products? The case of Sorrell v. IMS Health puts that question before the Supreme Court Tuesday. At a time when the health care industry is being overhauled and anxiety over rising medical costs is high, the case could potentially affect drug manufacturers, doctors, and patients who rely on prescription drugs (Lamb-Atkinson, 4/26). 

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