Supreme Court Strikes Vermont Data Mining Law and Protects Pharmaceutical Marketing


On June 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 6-3 decision in Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., declaring a Vermont law designed to prevent data mining unconstitutional. The Vermont Prescription Confidentiality Law at issue restricted the use, sale, and disclosure of pharmacy records revealing physicians’ prescribing practices.

Data mining of pharmaceutical information occurs when pharmacies sell “prescriber-identifying information” to “data miners” who prepare reports on such information in order to sell to pharmaceutical manufacturers. The pharmaceutical manufacturers then employ “detailers” who use such reports to target physicians. It should be noted that prescriber-identifying information does not include patient identifiable information and, as a result, the case did not raise issues under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

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