The AP reports, “A Vermont law that restricts companies’ use of information about the drugs doctors prescribe is unconstitutional on free speech grounds, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.” IMS Health, SDI and Source Healthcare Analytics “had sued over the so-called data mining law.” Vermont pharmacies are required to “collect information including the prescriber’s name and address; the name, dosage and quantity of the drug; the date and place the prescription is filled; and the patient’s age and gender. At issue is what happens to that information.”
Bloomberg News reports, “Vermont lawmakers passed the law in 2007 to limit drug companies’ marketing campaigns as part of a push to reduce healthcare costs. The law banned the use of prescriber data for marketing efforts unless doctors consented.” Lawyers for the state argued Vermont “had valid interests in protecting public health and the privacy of doctors and citizens by restricting the use of prescription data in marketing campaigns.” But “lawyers for the data miners countered in the Vermont case that the companies have a constitutional right to acquire and use the information and the state’s interests don’t outweigh that right.”
Privacy groups charge online health sites with unauthorized sharing of user data. The New York Times reports, “QualityHealth is a popular health website with more than 20 million registered users that offers online medical information and email newsletters on a variety of topics.” But “according to a complaint filed Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission, site visitors who provide personal details about themselves might not be aware that QualityHealth collects information about people’s medical conditions, preferred medicines and treatment plans and uses it to profile its users for prescription drug marketing.” QualityHealth “is one of a number of companies cited in the complaint to the FTC filed by four nonprofit privacy and consumer advocacy groups.” The groups say “that online marketing of medications, products and medical services poses fundamental new risks to consumer privacy and health because of sophisticated data collection and patient-profiling techniques.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.