Bloomberg reports on a case concerning prescription privacy that will be reviewed by the US Supreme Court, Sorrell v. IMS Health, 10-779. (Read a previous post for information on a lawsuit concerning a similar privacy law in Maine. Also: In 2008, California failed to pass SB1096, which would have allowed pharmacies to sell customers’ prescription data for marketing purposes.)
The U.S. Supreme Court accepted a case that pits medical privacy interests against speech rights, agreeing to consider whether states can limit how drugmakers use data about the prescription-writing practices of doctors.
The justices today said they will review a Vermont law being challenged by a pharmaceutical industry trade group and three “data-mining” companies that help drugmakers target individual doctors with sales pitches. The 2007 Vermont law, struck down by a federal appeals court, bars use of prescription information for marketing without the doctor’s consent. The case gives the high court a chance to shape the burgeoning debate over the extent of privacy rights in the digital age. […]
The Vermont law targets “detailing,” the industry practice of one-on-one marketing to doctors to persuade them to prescribe particular drugs. Pharmaceutical companies spend more than $8 billion a year on detailing, according to trial testimony in the case. […]
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York struck down the Vermont law in a 2-1 ruling. The majority said the measure violates the First Amendment because it restricts the speech rights of data miners without directly advancing legitimate state interests. […]
The 2nd Circuit’s ruling put it in conflict with the Boston-based 1st Circuit. That court upheld a similar New Hampshire law in 2008, saying it regulates conduct, not speech. The Supreme Court refused to review that ruling in 2009. Maine also has a similar law.