Originally published: June 23, 2011
Last updated: June 23, 2011 - 6:53pm
In a victory for pharmaceutical and data-mining companies, the Supreme Court has struck down a Vermont statute that sought to outlaw the practice of pharmacies selling information to drugmakers about doctors' prescribing habits.
In a 6-3 decision, the High Court ruled that Vermont's law violated constitutional protections on free speech even though lawmakers drafted it with the goal of preventing pharmaceutical companies from using direct marketing to convince doctors to prescribe more-costly drugs to patients. "While Vermont's goals of lowering the costs of medical services and promoting public health may be proper, (the contested law) does not advance them in a permissible way," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority. Vermont's law sought to prohibit pharmacies from selling the information to drug companies for marketing purposes and to prevent data "detailers" from using the information to sell more drugs. However, the law continued to let healthcare researchers buy the information for research purposes.