New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation law restricting medical data companies' access to doctors' prescription information went on trial Monday, with a federal judge lecturing a lawyer for the companies about free speech.
The law, which is less than a year old, is intended to protect doctors from high-pressure sales pitches by drug company representatives.
IMS Health and Verispan filed a complaint last year in U.S. District Court asking that the law be declared unconstitutional.
The companies, which collect, analyze and sell medical data, say the law, which bans the sale, use and distribution of certain prescription information, also would restrict sales of the information for uses that benefit the public, such as scientific research, clinical trials and drug recalls.
Lawyer Tom Julin argued that category deserves the highest free-speech protections, like those afforded to newspapers that publish information they have obtained legally.
But he was cut short by U.S. District Judge Paul Barbadoro.
"Trying to wrap yourself in the mantle of newspaper cases ... doesn't cut it with me," Barbadoro said.
Even before lawyers for the state and the companies were allowed to present opening statements, Barbadoro laid out his views on what the law says and the legal standards that apply. Barbadoro will decide the case; there is no jury.