Fight continues over state limits on prescription data mining

Hearings began this week on an effort, sponsored by at least six pharma data-mining firms, designed to overturn a new Maine law which lets prescribers opt out of having their prescribing information used by such companies. Players fighting to overturn the Maine measure include IMS Health, Verispan, McKesson Corp. and Source Healthcare Analytics. Groups backing the law, which data-mining firms say is unconstitutional, include the AARP and consumer group Community Catalyst. If the effort to overturn the legislation fails, it will become effective as of January 1, 2008.

Whether the Maine law actually is ruled unconstitutional remains to be seen, of course. However, a related--though stricter--New Hampshire law completely banning the collection of physician prescription data for commercial use was struck down earlier this year as an abridgment of the vendors' free-speech rights. New Hampshire officials are appealing the decision. Meanwhile, a similar Vermont law remains on the books, though it too is facing a challenge.

Even if the companies win in Maine, this is far from over. I predict that the data-miners will be playing legal Whack-A-Mole for quite some time, as many state legislators seem convinced that using such data for drug marketing can push doctors to prescribe costly brand-name drugs unnecessarily.

To learn more about the legislation, and political ferment around it:
- read this Modern Healthcare article

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