Supreme Court strikes down Vermont data law

SupCo The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today in favor of pharmaceutical and data mining companies in finding Vermont's prescriber data law unconstitutional.

 In an opinion written by Justice Kennedy, the court ruled Vermont's law violated First Amendment protections:

"Vermont further argues that detailers’ use of prescriber-identifying information undermines the doctor patient relationship by allowing detailers to influence treatment decisions. But if pharmaceutical marketing affects treatment decisions, it can do so only because it is persuasive. Fear that speech might persuade provides no lawful basis for quieting it. … Vermont may be displeased that detailers with prescriber-indentifying information are effective in promoting brand name drugs, but the State may not burden protected expression in order to tilt public debate in a preferred direction. Vermont nowhere contends that its law will prevent false or misleading speech within the meaning of this Court’s First Amendment precedents."

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America issued the following statement on the ruling:

“Today’s opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court is not only a victory for free speech, but also a triumph for patients and future research and development by biopharmaceutical companies.

"The use of prescriber data, with all patient identification removed, helps companies properly inform doctors about prescription medicines and their characteristics – including new indications, proper dosage forms and potential side effects – in a targeted and expedited manner. Reliable, timely access to such information about a medicine is essential for a physician to provide quality care to patients."

You can view the Supreme Court decision here, and Pharmalot provides useful background on the case here.

– By Tony Jewell