The battle over physician secrecy is going big time! IMS Health is appealing the verdict of the First Circuit Court of Appeals to the US Supreme Court. The IMS Health press release can be found here.
At issue is whether physicians have the right to shield their actions from scrutiny - be it the government, drug companies or even patients. Do doctors have the right to operate without oversight or impunity?
The State of New Hampshire passed a law back in 2006 and IMS Health successfully challenged the case in court. The State of New Hampshire then appealed the case in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned the lower court ruling. The legislative battle and court case has consumed vast resources from the State of New Hampshire and caused to the State to scale back in critical patient services to pay for the legal battle. New Hampshire enacted the legislation under the argument it would decrease prescription drug costs in the state. However, since the law was passed in 2006, the State of New Hampshire has been unable to generate even $1 in prescription drug savings as a result.
It is worth noting that an important use of this information is for the protection of patient safety. The data is used to speed information about drug recalls and adverse events. The FDA and researchers across the country rely on the information to study patient safety and drug companies use the information to develop risk management programs for patients.
The real motivation behind the law is prescription drug abuse. The State of New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the country (ranking right up there with West Virginia). The law in New Hampshire was written by State Representative Cindy Rosenwald, on behalf of her husband – Dr. Peter Klementowicz. One of the applications of the data is to ensure physicians aren’t committing crimes. If you can destroy the data, you make physician oversight much more difficult – much to the glee of a small minority of physicians in New Hampshire.
It will be interesting to see if the Supreme Court sides with patient safety, or in the self-protectionist interests of wealthy physicians like Dr. Klementowicz that don’t want any accountability for their actions.