Companies File Lawsuits Challenging Maine, Vermont Data Mining Laws
Three health information companies have filed lawsuits in the U.S. district courts for the districts of Maine and Vermont to challenge two state laws that restrict collecting and sharing physician prescribing information.
IMS Health, Wolters Kluwer Health and Verispan are seeking a court order to enjoin enforcing the statutes, which take effect Jan. 1, 2008. The bills will hurt the public’s access to healthcare information and conflict with the trend toward industry transparency, the companies said.
Vermont’s bill does not allow physicians’ identifying information to be used for marketing purposes unless they specify that they want to opt-in to the program. Maine’s bill prohibits the sale of prescription information that identifies the healthcare practitioner who ordered the prescription.
The three companies said Maine and Vermont’s laws are based on a New Hampshire bill that a federal court judge ruled against and called “unconstitutional” on free speech grounds. IMS Health challenged the New Hampshire law in court.
However, Vermont lawmakers revised the restriction section of their bill after the New Hampshire ruling. “We spent a lot of time studying the New Hampshire decision,” and tailored the bill to address it, Vermont Rep. Harry Chen said.
The three health information companies said the Maine and Vermont laws “differ only slightly” from the New Hampshire law, with “cosmetic differences” that do not address constitutionality issues.
The Maine and Vermont laws are “blocking vital healthcare information from public view while doing nothing to drive down prescription drug costs or improve the health and well-being of citizens,” IMS Vice President of External Affairs Randy Frankel said. He added the companies have “no choice” but to oppose the legislation.
The three companies said that prescribing information is anonymous and does not reveal individual patient health records. — Emily Ethridge