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Supreme Court Rejects VT Law on Prescription Data

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, June 24, 2011

States do not have the right to prevent drug companies from using information about prescription sales in marketing campaigns targeting physicians, the United States Supreme Court decided in a 6-3 vote Thursday.

The court struck down a Vermont law that blocked the use of such prescription drug data, saying the law violated drug companies' right to speak freely about the benefits of their products.

The majority wrote: "the First Amendment directs us to be especially skeptical of regulations that seek to keep people in the dark for what the government perceives to be their own good." They said the issue has "great relevance in the fields of medicine and public health, where information can save lives."

The American Medical Association issued a press release saying that physicians who object to the high court's decision can enroll in the AMA's free Physician Data Restriction Program, "which enables physicians to 'opt out' of such disclosure quickly and easily, while still allowing their data to be available for academic and governmental research." Some 28,000 U.S. physicians have used the PDRP to restrict their data, the AMA said.

The AMA said "We believe the PDRP balances individual physician concerns regarding prescription data with First Amendment freedoms and the fundamental public interest in robust medical research."

It added that "While the AMA supports the appropriate disclosure of prescriber data, the AMA firmly believes that every physician has the unequivocal right to decide whether his or her individual prescribing data is shielded from pharmaceutical detailers."

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