Law that bans datamining of drug prescriptions challenged

Battle royal over First Amendment rights of datamining companies to collect, mind and sell publicly available data. AMA lines up against the law.

May a state bar data mining companies from discovering which individual doctors prescribe brand-name and generic drugs? That's the question before a federal court this week, reports the Associated Press.

Two datamining companies sued the state days after the law took effect, arguing it violates their freedom of speech. IMS Health executive Randolph Frankel said such data, used for detailed profiles of doctors and hospitals, can help consumers make better choices and can better inform public health decisions.

"This is like Consumer Reports - what medication works better, which is the best hospital to have a procedure," Frankel said. "We are the messenger to the health-care field, and we think the state is shooting the messenger."

The American Medical Association is lined up on the side of the drug companies and dataminers, since it makes millions of dollars a year selling information about its member physicians. On the side of the state: the New Hampshire Medical Society, AARP, and the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The idea behind the law, says the bill's sponsor, State Rep. Cindy Rosenwald, is to allow doctors to make the best prescribing decisions, free from the pressure of drug salespeople.

"If doctors are allowed to have some confidentiality and concentrate on the health needs of their patient, the best prescribing decisions will be made."

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