Federal judge rejects ME prescription data law

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A Maine law that would have limited access by medical data companies to doctors' prescription information was reversed on constitutional grounds.

The law, scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, would prohibit “the transfer of truthful commercial information” and “violate the free speech guarantee,” US District Judge John Woodcock ruled. Researchers IMS Health, Wolters Kluwer Health and Verispan had challenged the law.

“We believe that restrictions on the dissemination of information of crucial public interest are neither good healthcare policy nor consistent with our society's core beliefs in the free flow of information,” IMS said in a statement issued after the ruling.

Judge Woodcock said he relied heavily on an earlier decision overturning a similar law in New Hampshire. In Vermont a similar case also is pending.

Maine's law was one of several state measures designed to slow Rx drug costs.

Following the New Hampshire ruling, Maine legislators attempted to alter their law to avoid the First Amendment snag, using an “opt out” provision to allow prescribers to prevent release of information. But challengers said the provision only increased the chances that the law would be used to shield poor prescribing practices.

State Rep. Sharon Treat told the Associated Press that she anticipates an appeal.  

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