Marcia Hams, Director, Prescription Access and Quality

In his opinion, Judge J. Garvan Murtha affirmed the Vermont Legislature’s findings that the use of data-mining as a pharmaceutical sales tactic promotes the overuse of more expensive, less-tested drugs, and that banning the practice for marketing purposes protects public health and contains costs.  He went on to say:


The Legislature…also found new drugs often provided little or no benefit over older drugs and was concerned that the unrestricted use of PI data in marketing contributed to over-prescription of new drugs. The evidence supports this finding. 

The Court’s decision supports a unanimous November 2008 ruling by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold a similar law in New Hampshire that bans the use of prescriber-identifiable information for marketing purposes, and is a strong signal for other states that are currently considering data-mining restriction laws, including Connecticut and Massachusetts.

The connection between marketing and concerns about the safety of new medications is clear.  The Court’s findings highlight the need to interrupt the flow of unreliable information and expand access to unbiased information about the safety and effectiveness of prescription drugs. Importantly, the Court also upheld the portion of the law designed to fund an evidence-based education program on prescription drugs for prescribers, a method often called “academic detailing.”   The Independent Drug Education and Outreach Act of 2009 (S.767 and H.R.1859), a bill before Congress, would create evidence-based educational materials and fund a workforce of medical professionals to bring the information to prescribers, providing resources for academic detailing programs like the one upheld in Vermont.