By Elizabeth Wiley, JD, MPH
AMSA Vice President for Internal Affairs
AMSA Legislative Director
IMS Health, a data-mining company, challenged the Vermont law as a violation of commercial free speech under the First Amendment and won in a lower court. As a result, the case is now before the Supreme Court. Several other states have either passed or are considering similar legislation, so the Court’s decision may have implications across the country.
While these marketing strategies may boost drug company profits, the unfortunate consequence of this practice for patients is higher prescription drug costs, less access, and, arguably, fewer evidence-based prescriptions and compromised doctor-patient confidentiality. For payers such as states and the federal government, data-mining and similar pharmaceutical marketing tactics raise the cost of health care at a time when budgets are tight.
So what do physicians (and future physicians) think about data-mining? There is some evidence suggesting that few physicians are aware that their data is mined. A study conducted by Kaiser revealed that 74% of physicians disapprove of the practice. A similar study by the AMA found 66% do not support data-mining.
The American Medical Student Association joined an amici brief in support of the Vermont law with the New England Journal of Medicine, the Massachusetts Medical Society and the National Physicians Alliance.