A hearing will be held tomorrow morning at a federal appeals court in Boston regarding a challenge to what pharma says is a First Amendment right to track prescription records. Last year, a federal court in New Hampshirestruck down a first-in-the-nation law prohibiting prescription data identifying patients or prescribers from being accessed for marketing purposes. State officials argued the law protected doctor-patient relationships and the health and safety of patients, while also helping containing health care costs.
For those who havenâ€™t followed this, drugmakers want this data so they can learn which docs are high prescribers and figure out who to target for the hard sell. Two research firms, also known as data miners, IMS Health and Verispan, challenged the law and called it unconstitutional. They received backing not only from industry, but also free-speech advocates. Consumer and patient groups lined up behind the state, citing patient privacy and a need to lower health costs.
US District Judge Paul Barbadoro in his ruling wrote that the New Hampshire law â€œattempts to address important public policy concerns,â€ but when states â€œadopt speech restrictions as their method, courts must subject their efforts to closer scrutiny.â€ The law â€œcannot be enforced to the extent that it purports to restrict the transfer or use of prescriber-identifiable data.â€
The legislation was sponsored by state rep Cindy Rosenwald, a member of the National Legislative Association on Drug Prices which, along with a few other organizations, are supporting New Hampshire's appeal. These include AARP, Community Catalyst, National Physicians Alliance and Prescription Policy Choices.