Supreme Court to Weigh Drug Data Mining Limits

Tuesday, 26 Apr 2011 12:25 PM

By Andra Varin

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The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether a state can stop pharmacies from sharing information on doctors’ prescription-writing practices with drug companies.

Drugs, data mining, supreme courtOral arguments were set Tuesday over Vermont’s efforts to limit so-called data mining for commercial purposes.

Under federal and state law, pharmacies must keep records of every doctor’s prescriptions. Some pharmacies in turn sell that information to data miners, which analyze the information and then sell it to drug manufacturers. The drug companies use it in their marketing and sales strategies.

Vermont contends the practice is a “covert marketing tool.” State officials want to limit it, saying it threatens medical privacy. They also say the information allows drug companies to push their brands of medications on doctors, thus reducing patients’ opportunity to choose cheaper, generic drugs.

Drug companies contend Vermont is trying to restrict commercial free speech.

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