Top court won't review prescription privacy law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court declined on Monday to hear an appeal by two publishers of health-care information arguing that data mining for commercial purposes is protected by free-speech rights.

The high court refused to decide a challenge by IMS Health Inc and Verispan, a unit of SDI Health LLC, to a New Hampshire law that makes it a crime to use information about a doctor’s prescribing history for the purpose of increasing drug sales.

The companies appealed after a U.S. appeals court last year upheld the law and rejected their argument that it unconstitutionally infringed on their free-speech rights.

New Hampshire became the first state to adopt such a law in 2006. Since then, Maine and Vermont have enacted similar laws, the companies said.

The law’s goal was to reduce health-care costs by making it more difficult for drug companies to engage in targeted marketing pitches to particular doctors, which the state believes results in expensive brand-name drug use.

The publishers often obtain data from pharmacies about a doctor’s prescriptions and illnesses the doctor has treated. The information, which does not identify individual patients, is then sold to pharmaceutical companies, which use the data in sales meetings with physicians.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal without comment.

Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Maureen Bavdek