Supreme Court Slates Privacy Case

Will Hear Arguments April 26 in Pharmaceutical Case
Supreme Court Slates Privacy Case
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments April 26 in a healthcare privacy case involving whether Vermont can ban the use of certain prescription drug data in the marketing of pharmaceuticals.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed an amicus brief in the case, arguing that a U.S. Court of Appeals decision in November declaring the Vermont law unconstitutional should be overturned.

At issue in the case, Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., et al (10-779) is "whether a (state) law that restricts access to information in nonpublic prescription drug records and affords prescribers the right to consent before their identifying information in prescription drug records is sold or used in marketing violates the First Amendment," according to one blog, sponsored by a law firm, that tracks Supreme Court activity.

"Pharmacies collect data regarding what drugs doctors prescribe to their patients and make that data publicly available (with patient identifying information redacted) for various uses," the blog explains. The Supreme Court will consider whether the First Amendment permits a state to prohibit drug manufacturers from using that data to market drugs to doctors.

Drug database firms IMS Health, Verispan (now SDI Health) and Source Healthcare Analytics, as well as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, filed the suit seeking to have the Vermont ban lifted.

The EPIC brief, filed on behalf of 27 technical experts and legal scholars as well as nine consumer and privacy groups, argues that the privacy interest in safeguarding medical records is substantial and that the de-identification techniques adopted by data-mining firms do not protect patient privacy.

About the Author

Howard Anderson

Howard Anderson

Former News Editor, ISMG

Anderson was news editor of Information Security Media Group and founding editor of HealthcareInfoSecurity and DataBreachToday. He has more than 40 years of journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues. Before launching HealthcareInfoSecurity, he served as founding editor of Health Data Management magazine, where he worked for 17 years, and he served in leadership roles at several other healthcare magazines and newspapers.

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