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Supreme Court: Data Mining OK, Even When Physician Privacy Is Compromised

The Supreme Court has sided with Big Pharma in their challenge to the Vermont Law limiting the pharmaceutical Industry’s access to physician prescribing information.

The nation’s high court handed down a verdict Thursday in the Sorrell v. IMS Health case, striking down by a 6-3 vote a 2007 Vermont law that that bans the practice of data mining — the sale and use of prescriber-identifiable information for marketing or promoting a drug, including drug detailing — unless a physician specifically gives his or her permission to use the information.

Apparently, Big Pharma’s right to “free speech” trumps my right to privacy. How getting access to my prescribing information has anything to do with free speech is beyond me.  In the twisted logic of the pro-business, anti-citizen Supreme Court –

Speech in aid of pharmaceutical marketing… is a form of expression protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.

The Vermont Law Did Not Go Far Enough

By limiting its restrictions on data sharing to Pharma marketing, Vermont set itself up for the SCOTUS decision by making it appear that they were unfairly singling out marketing uses from other uses of prescribing data.  In my opinion, I don’t think anyone should have my prescribing data without my permission.

The AMA’s Role in Releasing  Physician Prescribing Information

The Vermont Law would not have been necessary were the AMA not selling physician information (the so called AMA Physician Masterfile) to the data mining companies, who then merge the files with pharmacy data and sell it to Big Pharma so they can use it to track physician prescribing patterns and target their marketing messages. Lucky docs don’t even have to be an AMA member for them to sell their data.

Now, the AMA is coming in like the White Knight, supporting physicians’ right to restrict access to their data –

While the AMA supports the appropriate disclosure of prescriber data, the AMA firmly believes that every physician has the unequivocal right to decide whether his or her individual prescribing data is shielded from pharmaceutical detailers. To help physicians exercise that right, the AMA created the Physician Data Restriction Program (PDRP), which enables physicians to “opt out” of such disclosure quickly and easily, while still allowing their data to be available for academic and governmental research.

“The PDRP is available to all U.S. physicians – both AMA members and nonmembers. Since its launch in 2006, nearly 28,000 physicians have used the PDRP to restrict their data….Interested physicians can register online or by calling (800) 621-8335.

Please. They’re the ones selling our data in the first place.

Looks like the wrong lawsuit was filed in the first place. It’s docs who need to be suing the AMA.


Additional Reading

Medblogger Response to the Ruling

Dr Wes “When Speech Trumps Privacy

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog That Ate Manhattan*

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