High court to weigh data-mining laws

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to consider a case that could change the face of drug marketing. At issue is whether market research firms can collect prescription information and resell it to drugmakers to use in marketing. The case pits the state of Vermont, which banned the practice without the consent of individual physicians, against IMS Health and two other data-mining companies, along with PhRMA.

Vermont lawmakers passed the measure in an attempt to protect doctor and patient privacy, the Wall Street Journal reports. The legislature also hoped to hold down healthcare costs, theorizing that targeted marketing to doctors might cause overuse of expensive branded medications. "Vermont doctors pressed for this law because of their concerns about privacy and because they view this data mining practice as an intrusion into the way doctors practice medicine," Vermont AG William Sorrell told the WSJ.

IMS and its co-plaintiffs challenged the bill, saying it violated their First Amendment rights. A New York appeals court took the data-miners side, saying the law violated commercial free-speech rights. But a different appeals court upheld similar laws in Maine and New Hampshire. So, the fight moves to the Supreme Court. Arguments are expected in April.

- check out the statement from IMS
- read the Vermont AG's release
- see the WSJ piece