Magazine article Information Management

Supreme Court Approves Data Mining by Drug Cos

Magazine article Information Management

Supreme Court Approves Data Mining by Drug Cos

Article excerpt


The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Vermont law that restricted data mining and drug companies from using prescription information for marketing purposes.

Pharmacies are required by state and federal law to collect the information, which typically includes doctors' names, what drugs they prescribe, and how often drugs are ordered. Pharmacists sell the data to data mining companies, who then sell it to drug makers with patient names removed or encrypted, InformationWeek said.

The 2007 Vermont law effectively banned the practice in the state. It said data mining companies can't sell the prescription information for marketing purposes, and drug makers can't use it unless the prescribing doctor consents.

Vermont lawmakers said the measure would protect the privacy of doctors and patients and help to control the cost of expensive brand-name drugs.

According to the Associated Press (AP), brand-name drug makers spend an estimated $8 billion annually marketing their products to doctors.

Those efforts include the practice of detailing, in which sales representatives target individual doctors based on the doctors' own prescribing habits, the AP reported.

The law banned detailing, but still allowed the information to be used for healthcare research and educational purposes, and by law enforcement, insurance companies, and journalists.

The lawsuit said the information about doctors' prescribing patterns is important in helping spot trends, tracking the safety of new medications, and studying treatment outcomes. …

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