In 2007, Vermont enacted a law to restrict how a doctor’s prescribing data may be used, specifically placing limits on the use of such data for marketing purposes. IMS Health Inc., a company that sells the prescribing information to pharmaceutical industry clients, joined with PhRMA and others, to challenge the Vermont law in federal district court claiming that it violated their right to free speech. The federal court upheld the law, but an appellate court reversed that decision (in conflict with rulings in Maine and New Hampshire that upheld similar laws in those states).
Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., et al., the case brought before the Court by Vermont’s attorney general, William H. Sorrell, that tests whether Vermont’s law violates the free-speech protection of the First Amendment. Industry and regulators alike will be watching closely for the outcome of this case, which could have a significant impact on the future of pharmaceutical sales and marketing practices. In recent years, the Court has shown an interest in protecting companies’ commercial free speech rights. Which way do you think the Court will go in this case?