(AP) — Drug companies at odds with the state of Vermont over the collection of information
about doctors’ prescription-writing habits are getting support in a legal
battle pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Patient groups, two former secretaries of the Department of
Health and Human Services and more than 50 organizations, including The
Associated Press, have filed 16 friend-of-the-court briefs urging the Supreme
Court to reject Vermont’s
law that limits the use of information collected about physicians’ prescription
“The broad and diverse voices of respected health care
stakeholders and thought leaders clearly show that Vermont failed to recognize the vital
importance of this information, the principles of transparency and its
contribution to improving patient care and reducing health care costs,”
said Harvey Ashman, a vice president for IMS Health.
Last month, Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell said a
bipartisan group of 35 states and other organizations were backing the state in
At issue is the state law that restricts what pharmacies can
do with information they collect about drugs prescribed by doctors. The
information includes the name, dosage and quantity of the drug but not the name
of the patient.
officials say drug companies use the information as a “covert marketing
tool.” They believe restricting it helps protect medical privacy and
control health care costs by promoting generic drugs.
A number of drug companies sued. In November, a three-judge
panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New
York said Vermont’s
law was a restriction on commercial free speech. Vermont appealed that decision to the U.S.
Supreme Court, which will hear the case on April 26.