Patient groups, two former Department of Health and Human Services secretaries, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 50 organizations and individuals have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the rejection of state laws that limit the commercial use of physician prescription data.


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Supreme Court urged to nix laws limiting Rx data use

April 1st, 2011

WASHINGTON – Patient groups, two former Department of Health and Human Services secretaries, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 50 organizations and individuals have filed briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the rejection of state laws that limit the commercial use of physician prescription data.

On April 26, the Supreme Court is slated to hear the case Sorrell v. IMS Health, in which it will determine the constitutionality of a Vermont law that bans the use of a doctor's prescribing history in the marketing of medicine. The 16 friend-of-the-court briefs called on the justices to adopt a Court of Appeals decision that nullified the law on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment by banning the voluntary exchange of truthful information on a matter of public importance.

IMS Health is joined by SDI, Source Healthcare Analytics (a subsidiary of Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions) and the Pharmaceutical Research Manufacturers Association in the challenge to the Vermont law. Similar statutes in New Hampshire and Maine also have been challenged in federal court.

Parties filing friend-of-the-court briefs for the case included the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, American Society for Automation in Pharmacy, Biotech Industry Organization and the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group, as well as former HHS secretaries Dr. Louis Sullivan and Tommy Thompson, who also is a former governor of Wisconsin.

"The broad and diverse voices of respected health care stakeholders and thought leaders clearly show that Vermont failed to recognize the vital importance of this information, the principles of transparency and its contribution to improving patient care and reducing health care costs," stated Harvey Ashman, IMS senior vice president and general counsel. "Further, the level of support from those outside the health care realm, such as news publishers and business publishers, speaks to the fear that if the Vermont law is upheld the First Amendment will afford little protection against government regulation of many sources of data that are vital to private research, innovation and everyday commerce."

The brief signed by Sullivan and Thompson, along with the Healthcare Leadership Council, details the value that timely and robust data have in improving public health. They wrote that the Vermont statute "makes it harder, not easier, for health care professionals to identify and reduce the substantial variations that exist in the delivery of health care services and the considerable health disparities that affect the lives of many Americans."

The Associated Press, Bloomberg, Hearst Corporation, McGraw-Hill, and the Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press also joined in a brief urging the Supreme Court to recognize that computerized analysis of data "is a centerpiece of freedom of speech in our 21st century information-centric democracy."

A decision in Sorrell v. IMS Health is likely by the end of June, according to IMS Health, SDI and Source Healthcare Analytics.

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