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Court Win for Healthcare Info Firms

January 2 2008

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maine has granted the preliminary injunction sought by three research and information firms to block enforcement of Maine's Prescription Restraint Law, LD-4.

The law, which bans the use of physician prescribing information for marketing, was due to take effect yesterday. The injunction was granted on December 21st following a suit brought by IMS Health, Wolters Kluwer Health (through its subsidiary Source Healthcare Analytics, Inc.) and Verispan LLC. The preliminary injunction will maintain the status quo until a final ruling is reached.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ruled that the Law amounted to 'an unconstitutional abridgement of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.' A similar ruling declared New Hampshire's prescription restraint law unconstitutional on April 30th 2007, while a third case is pending in Vermont. The latest suits were filed in August (www.mrweb.com/drno/news7252.htm ).

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 already dictates that provider-identifiable prescription information is patient de-identified and patient privacy is federally protected. The three firms say they add their own additional safeguards for patient privacy, including encryption.

Robert H. Steinfeld, IMS Senior VP and General Counsel, welcomed the 'thoughtful' decision and added: '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.' Randy Frankel, IMS VP for External Affairs, says such legislation 'is counterproductive and inconsistent with the national trend toward more transparency in healthcare practices'. He adds: 'It's vital that provider-level prescription information remain accessible, as it has proven value in efforts to monitor safety and manage quality, treatment variability and healthcare costs.'

Web sites are at www.imshealth.com , www.wkhealth.com and www.verispan.com.

All articles 2006-22 written and edited by Mel Crowther and/or Nick Thomas unless otherwise stated.

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