The U.S. Supreme Court’s June 23 decision in Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc. is among the 2010 term’s most important. The opinion addresses a core marketing approach in the more than $300 billion U.S. pharmaceutical industry, exemplifies the court’s developing, muscular, corporate-speech jurisprudence, and provides a window into data privacy issues the court will face in upcoming terms.


The court struck down, 6-3, on First Amendment grounds a Vermont law forbidding the use of physicians’ prescribing histories for marketing purposes. The prescribing histories, which are stripped of patient-identifying information but do contain prescriber-identifying information, are collected from pharmacies and analyzed by data mining companies.

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