On June 23, 2011, the Supreme Court struck down a Vermont law that had restricted the sale, disclosure, and use of pharmaceutical records that revealed the prescribing practices of individual doctors. The law had impacted a practice called "detailing," where pharmaceutical sales representatives visit doctors and tell them about the advantages of their companies' prescription drugs. A salesperson who understands the physician's prescribing practices is more effective, and often wants to understand those practices (typically called "prescriber-identifying information"). Pharmacies receive this prescriber-identifying information and sell it to data mining firms, which in turn analyze it, produce reports, and lease those reports to pharmaceutical companies and their representatives. The Vermont law had attempted to restrict this practice, and was challenged both by a group of data mining companies as well as pharmaceutical companies. Both argued that the law violated the First Amendment, and the cases were consolidated. The Second Circuit found that the law was unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court affirmed. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia had supported Vermont's position, and Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Kagan dissented from the majority decision.
TIP: This case is a major victory for pharmaceutical and data mining companies, although it has been criticized. Companies that engage in these practices are advised to continue to monitor this issue as amended laws that can pass scrutiny may be proposed.