WebMD Seeks to Move Quintiles Suit to Federal Court
WebMD Corp. has asked that a lawsuit over its decision to stop providing electronic health claims data to its strategic partner Quintiles Transnational Corp. be moved to federal court, the Wall Street Journal reports. Durham, N.C.-based Quintiles this weekend obtained a temporary restraining order to force WebMD to continue to send the information after WebMD stopped providing the data, citing patient privacy concerns. WebMD said that it halted the flow of information to Quintiles, which repackages the information for sale to drug companies and other clients, after concluding that some of the data could be used to identify a specific person. The data includes dates of birth, sex and nine-digit ZIP codes that, when combined with other publicly available databases, could be used to determine the identity of individuals, WebMD said. Although the company had no knowledge of individuals having been identified based on the information or that Quintiles intended to do so, WebMD said it acted to ensure that it was not violating any one of various state privacy laws. WebMD said the suspension of data flow is "temporary" and would be resumed if Quintiles modified the data format to comply with the laws. However, Quintiles said that its format is in compliance with the law and that WebMD's action is "unjustified" and has caused "irreparabl[e] har[m]." In a regulatory filing, WebMD disclosed that it has asked that the lawsuit be moved to the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Although WebMD has been restructuring its business plan and re-evaluating its strategic alliances, the company said that its decision to halt information flow to Quintiles is "not a bargaining chip" for negotiations (Carrns, Wall Street Journal, 3/2).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.