New Hampshire Law on Use of Rx Data Overturned
A U.S. District Court judge on Monday ruled that a New Hampshire law banning the pharmaceutical industry from using physicians' prescription drug usage data for marketing purposes violates the First Amendment, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Ginsberg, Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/2).
The law, which took effect in June 2006, intended to prevent drug companies from using the information to tailor sales pitches to specific doctors, a practice known as "detailing." Shortly after the law went into effect, IMS Health and Verispan -- companies that collect, analyze and sell medical data -- filed a complaint in federal court, claiming that the law was unconstitutional.
Supporters of the law, including AARP, the New Hampshire Medical Society and HHS, said it protected the privacy between doctors and patients and prevented sales representatives from influencing doctors' prescribing decisions (McCormack, AP/Manchester Union Leader, 5/1).
U.S. District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro in his 54-page ruling stated, "Ordinarily, states should be given wide latitude to choose among rational alternatives when they act to benefit the public interest. However, when states adopt speech restrictions as their method, courts must subject their efforts to closer scrutiny" (Saul, New York Times, 5/1). He added that the law "cannot be enforced to the extent that it purports to restrict the transfer or use of prescriber-identifiable data."
A dozen other states have considered similar laws (AP/Manchester Union Leader, 5/1).
State Rep. Cindy Rosenwald (D), who sponsored the law, said, "I feel that corporate interests took precedent over the needs of people in New Hampshire," adding, "I think it's like having a drug rep peering over a doctor's shoulder when he is writing a prescription."
IMS Vice President Randolph Frankel said he believes "that other states will look to this decision as a basis for framing where they go in terms of their own legislative activities."
Richard Head, an assistant attorney general in New Hampshire, said, "We are going to review the court's decision and consider various alternatives" (New York Times, 5/1).