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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 19550

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: Electronic Source

Treat S
Legislators Keenly Interested in Outcome of U.S. Supreme Court Case Challenging Vermont Law Protecting Private Prescription Records
NLARx Blog 2011 Apr 25

Full text:

Legislators, Seniors, Consumers, and Doctors Among Those Filing
Friend-of-Court Briefs in Sorrell v. IMS Health

April 25, 2011

Maine Rep. Sharon Treat
NLARx Executive Director
(207) 242-8558

Meredith Jacob, Esq.
Prof. Sean Flynn, Esq.
NLARx Counsel
Program on Information Justice & Intellectual Property, Washington College of Law
(202) 274-4157

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court hears oral argument Tuesday April 26 in a landmark case, Sorrell v. IMS Health, balancing First Amendment free speech claims with the medical privacy interests of patients and doctors.

Vermont is defending its right to enact laws regulating the use of data on doctors’ and other medical professional’s prescribing histories for marketing purposes. Similar laws have been upheld in Maine and New Hampshire, and states around the country including Washington State and Massachusetts have considered adopting the privacy protections.

The National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARx), a nonpartisan association of state legislators who support laws to make prescription drugs more affordable, has supported passage of the data confidentiality laws and joined with AARP to file an Amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the Vermont law.

“This is an important case with broad implications for states across the Nation. It pits privacy, specifically the privacy of health records, against assertions by corporations that they have free speech rights to use private data in marketing activities,” said Sharon Treat, NLARx Executive Director. “State legislators have a strong interest in this case for reasons of protecting public health and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship, preserving access to affordable health care, and insuring that private data about health status and diagnosis remains private,” Treat stated.

The Sorrell v. IMS Health case is an appeal from a Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision overturning Vermont’s prescriber confidentiality law on grounds of free speech. Similar laws in New Hampshire and Maine were upheld by the First Circuit Court of Appeals as constitutional and within the scope of state authority.

“A decision invalidating the Vermont law will affect the viability of the laws in its neighboring northern New England states, and a decision upholding the law will give a green light to states that are weighing whether to adopt similar patient and practitioner protections,” said Rep. Treat.

Professor Sean Flynn of the Washington College of Law at American University and NLARx Counsel stated: “The Vermont law directly advances its interest in protecting against disclosure of records containing the most personal of information as well as its interest in protecting individual autonomy in decision making on important personal matters. Protecting the confidentiality of records advances important goals of our health system, including combating undue influence of in person pharmaceutical marketing that raises costs and damages public health interests.”

In addition to NLARx and AARP, a separate friend of the court brief in support of the Vermont law has been filed on behalf of Public Citizen, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Action, Public Good, U.S. PIRG, and New Hampshire PIRG; and another brief has been filed by the New England Journal of Medicine, the Massachusetts Medical Society, the National Physician’s Alliance, and the American Medical Students Association. Read the briefs here.


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