Companies like IMS Health Inc., based in Norwalk, Conn., have built an industry around gathering prescription data and selling the information to pharmaceutical companies for millions of dollars each year. Pfizer Inc., Merck & Co. Inc., and nearly every other drug maker uses the data to identify which doctors are prescribing their drugs and which are prescribing the competition. When freebie-wielding salespeople show up at their offices, most doctors don’t know they’re being targeted based on their own prescribing habits.
But the political tide may be turning against IMS Health and competitors like Verispan, a unit of Surveillance Data Inc. After years of steady growth, they are fighting against laws in three New England states to keep prescribing information out of their hands.
Judges in Maine and New Hampshire have handed the companies early victories, declaring laws aimed at stopping the commercial use of prescription data unconstitutional. But an impending decision by the federal appeals court in Boston could overturn those actions and open the door to more restrictions nationwide.
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