The law was supposed to take effect on Jan. 1, but state attorney general Bill Sorrell decided in September to delay implementation by at least a year, to September 2008. Meanwhile, his office is now deleting a section requiring sales reps to disclose when a competitor might have a cheaper alternative to the medication they are peddling.
"We think the proposals we've made are consistent with what the legislature was intending to do last spring," Sorrell tells the AP. "And if they strengthen the arguments we make in the litigation, in the lawsuit, we think that makes sense."
The law, which was amended in the waning days of last year's legislative session after a federal court struck down a similar measure in New Hampshire, contains several provisions aimed at slowing cost increases for prescription drugs. The datamining restrictions are "one piece of a larger effort by the state to ensure that marketing that goes on with respect to pharmaceutical products is appropriate and...also to protect the privacy concerns prescribers have," says Julie Brill, an assistant AG who worked on the legislation.
Both she and and state representative Steve Maier, who chairs the House Health Care Committee, which takes up the issue tomorrow, argue without the restrictions, drugmakers maximize their profits and jack up health care costs by getting docs to prescribe the newest, most expensive meds.
IMS Health and Verispan call the restrictions a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, and have sued to overturn them in the three states that have passed such laws to date: New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. "These laws undermine the flow and dissemination of new drugs to doctors so fewer patients get them," Randy Frankel, an IMS vp, tells the AP.
The New Hampshire federal court decision overturning that state's law and a preliminary injunction issued by a federal court in Maine blocking that state's law from taking effect are on appeal at the 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
Vermont is apparently determined to restrict data-mining--so determined that it delayed implementation of a new law curtailing it. Facing a free-speech lawsuit, the state's attorney general decided to hold the law back until at least September so that legislators could tweak the law to thwart its critics.