A Maine law aimed at constraining state spending on prescription drugs by protecting physicians from having their prescription patterns data-mined for commercial use by drug marketers has been upheld by a federal appeals court in Boston, the Associated Press reported.
In an 87-page ruling, the appeals panel found that although empirical evidence was sparse that using prescription drug data for marketing influenced physician prescribing patterns, the court nonetheless gave the state initial latitude for a program aimed at controlling spiraling costs for its publicly funded healthcare programs.
The Maine law allows physicians to opt out of having their prescriptions records sold or exchanged and tracked for marketing drugs to them. Several intelligence companies sued, claiming that the law infringes on their constitutionally protected rights of free speech and that it violated the dormant commerce clause of the Constitution that reserves to the federal government the right to regulate interstate commerce.
The appeals court rejected the companies' constitutional arguments. In November 2008, the same court upheld a similar law from New Hampshire. Vermont, too, has sought to regulate the mining of prescription data.
Legal action seeking to overturn the Maine law was brought by IMS Health of Norwalk, Conn.; Verispan, which was later acquired by Pennsylvania-based SDI; and Source Healthcare Analytic Inc., a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Wolters Kluwer Health.
The appeals court found that Maine and New Hampshire had sufficiently "adduced evidence of the impact of detailing generally and presented anecdotal evidence strongly indicating that sales pitches based on specific prescribing patterns have a particularly persuasive impact on drug choice."
The court not only recognized its decision most likely would not be final but also appeared to encourage Maine to do its homework and the U.S. Supreme Court to accept an appeal.