NEWS21 May 2009

Associations back IMS Health in prescription data battle

Legal North America

US— Two research associations have registered their support for IMS Health and Verispan in their Supreme Court battle to overturn a New Hampshire law that blocks the use of physicians’ prescribing information for marketing purposes.

The Council of American Survey Research Organisations (Casro) and the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group (PMRG) have filed a brief in the Supreme Court in support of the two companies, claiming that the state’s prescription information law could have a “devastating effect” on the business of all pharmaceutical market research firms.

Other organisations to file briefs in support of the firms include the Coalition for Healthcare Communication and the Center for Democracy and Technology, which said the law “does not protect any legitimate privacy interest” and could “strangle” efforts to use healthcare information to improve patient care.

The companies went to the Supreme Court to seek a judicial review after the law, designed to protect doctors from high pressure drug company sales pitches, was declared unconstitutional in a federal court, but later reinstated by the Court of Appeals. A similar law is currently on hold in Maine, where the same appeals court ruling may also be applied.

In their submission to the court, Casro and the PMRG said that “criminalising the commercial use of prescriber-identifiable information” would threaten the business activities of legitimate research firms, and open the door for further restrictive regulation of information sharing.

They claimed that the data “is essential to evaluate, improve and develop products and devices, to evaluate trends and risks in the options for treatment and care of the general public, and develop truthful communications”.
Duane Berlin, general counsel of Casro and author of the brief, said: “Many Casro members work directly or indirectly with the pharmaceutical, medical and health care industries… This case and its proper resolution are of great importance to us.”