The U.S. Supreme Court released its decision today in Sorrell v. IMS Health Care, Inc., a case concerning the constitutionality of a Vermont statute that prohibited pharmacies from selling or disclosing prescriber-identifying information taken from prescriptions for marketing purposes.  The challenge to the statute was made by data mining companies.  The Supreme Court stated that “speech in aid of pharmaceutical marketing … is a form of expression protected by the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”  After applying heightened scrutiny, the Court found that the Vermont statute unjustly burdened speech in violation of the First Amendment.

Thirty-five states filed an amicus brief supporting the law as necessary to protect the privacy of patient data.  Senator Leahy (VT) issued a press release following the decision, which stated:

Today the Supreme Court has overturned a sensible Vermont law that sought to protect the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship.  This divided ruling is a win for data miners and large corporations and a loss for those of us who care about privacy not only in my home state of Vermont but across the nation.  States like Vermont must be able to protect the privacy of sensitive information exchanged between a doctor and patient.  This decision undermines that ability, and risks unduly influencing doctors in their future prescription choices.