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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19486

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Patient Groups, Former HHS Secretaries, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and More Than 50 Key Healthcare Stakeholders and Researchers Urge Supreme Court to Reject Three State Laws Outlawing Commercial Use of Prescription Data
Pharma Live 2011 Apr 1


Justices to hear arguments April 26 on constitutionality of laws that ban use of physician prescribing data in marketing of medicine

Full text:

Patient groups and former Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services, Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, M.D. and Gov. Tommy Thompson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and more than 50 organizations and individuals have filed 16 amicus – or friend of the court – briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court urging the rejection of state laws that limit the use of important information about physician practices.

In Sorrell v. IMS Health, the Supreme Court will decide the constitutionality of a Vermont law that bans the use of a physician’s prescribing history in the marketing of medicine. The amici urged the Justices to adopt a Court of Appeals decision that invalidated the law on the ground that it violated the First Amendment by banning the voluntary exchange of truthful information on a matter of public importance.

“The broad and diverse voices of respected healthcare 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 healthcare costs,” said Harvey Ashman, IMS senior vice president and general counsel. “Further, the level of support from those outside the healthcare 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.”

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.

The brief signed by Secretaries Sullivan and Thompson, along with the Healthcare Leadership Council, details the great value timely and robust data have in improving public health. They write 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.”

To read all 16 of the amicus briefs filed in support of the challenge to the statute, as well as additional information on the case, go to: A full list of amicus filers is included below.

Oral arguments in Sorrell v. IMS Health will be heard at the Supreme Court on April 26, with a decision likely by the end of June.

List of amicus filers:

Patient Groups and Researchers

Association of Clinical Research Organizations

Dr. David B. Nash, M.D., M.B.A. (Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia)

Dr. William B. Weeks, M.D., M.B.A. (Dartmouth Medical School)

Ernst R. Berndt, Ph.D. (MIT)

Frank R. Lichtenberg, Ph.D. (Columbia University)

Genetic Alliance

Glen T. Schumock, Pharm.D., M.B.A. (University of Illinois at Chicago)

J. Lyle Bootman, Ph.D., Sc.D. (College of Pharmacy, Univ. of Arizona)

Lee C. Vermeulen, Jr., R.Ph., M.S. (University of Wisconsin)

National Organization for Rare Diseases

Healthcare Stakeholders

Dr. Louis W. Sullivan, M.D. (former HHS Secretary)

Gov. Tommy Thompson (former HHS Secretary)

American Society for Automation in Pharmacy

BioBusiness Alliance of Minnesota




Biotechnology Industry Organization

Colorado BioScience Association

Connecticut United for Research Excellence, Inc.

Illinois Biotechnology Industry Organization

Iowa Biotechnology Association

Kansas Bioscience Organization

Massachusetts Biotechnology Council

Michigan Bioscience Industry Organization

National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Pennsylvania Bio

Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group

South Dakota Biotech Association

Texas Healthcare and Bioscience Institute


American Advertising Federation

American Association of Advertising Agencies

American Business Media

Association of National Advertisers, Inc.

Coalition Healthcare Communications

Consumer Data Industry Association


Council of American Survey Research Organizations

National Association of Manufacturers

National Association of Professional Background Screeners

Reed Elsevier


U.S. Chamber of Commerce

News Publishers

Associated Press

Bloomberg News

Hearst Corporation



Reporters Committee for Freedom of Press

Texas Tribune

Policy Organizations and Privacy Thought Leaders

Cato Institute

Healthcare Leadership Council

Jane Yakowitz (Brooklyn Law School)

Khaled El Emam (University of Ottawa)

New England Legal Foundation

Pacific Legal Foundation

Washington Legal Foundation


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A small group known as Healthy Skepticism; formerly the Medical Lobby for Appropriate Marketing) has consistently and insistently drawn the attention of producers to promotional malpractice, calling for (and often securing) correction. These organisations [Healthy Skepticism, Médecins Sans Frontières and Health Action International] are small, but they are capable; they bear malice towards no one, and they are inscrutably honest. If industry is indeed persuaded to face up to its social responsibilities in the coming years it may well be because of these associations and others like them.
- Dukes MN. Accountability of the pharmaceutical industry. Lancet. 2002 Nov 23; 360(9346)1682-4.