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Associated Press, Published June 29 2009

SUPREME COURT: High court won't decide on privacy of prescription pads

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court won't stop the state of New Hampshire from making doctors' prescription-writing habits confidential over the objection of companies who analyze and sell that information.

The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from IMS Health Inc., of Norwalk, Conn.; and Verispan LLC, of Yardley, Pa.

Those two companies collect, analyze and sell prescription information, and wanted to argue that the law violates their First Amendment right to free speech in pursuit of their business.

The New Hampshire law is aimed at thwarting hard-sell tactics by drug companies to doctors. It makes it a crime for pharmacies and others to transfer information disclosing a doctor's prescribing history if the information could be used for marketing of prescription drugs in New Hampshire.

Patients' names are not included in the data.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld the law, calling it a valid step to promote the delivery of cost-effective health care.

But the companies say that the money made by selling the information to drug makers allows them to provide the same material to researchers and humanitarian organizations at little or no cost.

The companies also warned in court papers that the law could be broadly applied to newspaper publication of stock market information and many other services that gather large amounts of information.

The case is IMS Health, Inc. and Verispan, LLC, v. Ayotte, 08-1202.