U.S. SC to hear data mining case

Jessica M. Karmasek Apr. 25, 2011, 3:36pm

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline) - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a case that questions whether the sale of doctors' prescription drug records is constitutional.

At issue is the practice of "data mining." SCOTUSblog reporter Lyle Denniston defines it as "the creation of usable information out of masses of stored computer entries."

The plaintiffs, IMS Health Inc., Verispan LLC, Source Healthcare Analytics Inc. and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, are challenging a Vermont statute banning the sale, transmission or use of prescriber-identifiable data for marketing or promoting a prescription drug unless the prescriber consents.

Vermont enacted the statute in 2007. The state did so intending to protect public health, protect prescriber privacy and to reduce health care costs, it says.

But those drug companies and data-mining companies at the center of the case argue that the law restricts non-commercial speech.

According to SCOTUSblog, state Assistant Attorney General Bridget C. Asay will be representing Vermont in Tuesday's arguments. The federal government will be represented by Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler. Speaking on behalf of drug and data-mining companies will be Thomas C. Goldstein of Goldstein, Howe & Russell.

More than 30 state attorneys general filed a brief in support of the Vermont law. The Washington Legal Foundation, along with The Associated Press and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, were among those that filed briefs in support of the drug and data-mining companies.

Legal Newsline is owned by the Institute for Legal Reform, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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