NEWS10 January 2011

Supreme Court to review Vermont’s prescription data law

Legal North America

US— The Supreme Court is to rule this summer on whether attempts by the state of Vermont to block the use of physician prescribing data for marketing purposes is a restriction of free speech.

Vermont had petitioned the court for a review of the decision made by an appeals court in November to overturn the law.

The petition had the support of IMS Health, SDI and Source Healthcare Analytics – three companies who collect and sell prescribing data and who have long battled against the state’s legislation. The companies said they backed a review because “We believe the justices will agree with the Court of Appeals that laws like this one violate the First Amendment right of free speech.”

Appeals court decisions haven’t always gone in favour of the companies, however. The Vermont ruling was made in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, but in the First Circuit judges sided with New Hampshire and Maine in allowing similar laws to stand.

A Supreme Court decision either way would serve as useful guidance. The case is scheduled to be heard in the spring with a ruling expected by June.

The disputed law does not ban companies from collecting information about the prescribing habits of physicians but prevents them from selling it on to pharmaceutical manufacturers for the purposes of marketing new drugs to doctors – unless the doctor consents to having their information used in that way.