No data-mining zone

1st Circuit Court of Appeals court ruling upholds New Hampshire law preventing pharmacies and data-miners from using physician prescribing patterns for marketing research.

The plaintiffs in the New Hampshire case, data-miners IMS Health and SDI Health (formerly Verispan), argued that the law infringed upon their free speech rights. Industry stakeholders eHealth Initiative, the National Alliance for Health Information Technology, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, SureScripts (now SureScripts-RxHub) and Wolters Kluwer Health filed briefs in support of the industry position. Privacy advocates are thrilled the claims were rejected. Pam Dixon, Executive Director of the San Diego-based World Privacy Forum, a not-for-profit advocacy group, said the decision in New Hampshire case “sets a critical prescedent.”

Palmer Jones, executive vice president of the New Hampshire Medical Society was happy with the outcome. “Half of the docs in the country don’t even know that when they write a prescription, that pharmacy company sells that information to data-mining companies,” Palmer said. “Once they understand that, it’s overwhelming.”

Two other states, Maine and Vermont, have similar laws restricting data-mining of health information. The Maine law, also challenged in the 1st Circuit,  was overturned. The Vermont law is currently being challenged in the Second Circuit Federal Courts.

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