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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Drug Firms Face Hurdles in Collecting Prescription Data

BOSTON -- Psychiatrist Marc Sadowsky recalled being shocked when a drug-company salesman challenged him two years ago to explain why he prescribed more of one type of anti-depressant than another.

"He knew more about my prescribing practices than I did," he said.

Sadowsky will testify next week in defense of a New Hampshire law -- the first in the nation -- that bans the commercial use of information on what drugs physicians prescribe.

IMS Health and Verispan, two companies that collect prescription data from pharmacies and sell it to drug makers, researchers and investment firms, are challenging the law.

The case begins on Monday in a U.S. district court. Its outcome could set a precedent for states such as Nebraska, Nevada and Missouri, which have introduced similar bills. New York is expected to do so this year.

The New Hampshire law aims to protect the privacy of doctors, end inappropriate marketing of drugs to physicians and cut swelling health care costs, said Richard Head, New Hampshire's senior assistant attorney general.

"The New Hampshire Legislature concluded that the practice causes doctors to prescribe more-expensive drugs when a less-expensive clinically equivalent drug would otherwise be prescribed," he said.

For the pharmaceuticals industry, which last year generated U.S. sales of roughly $272 billion, the stakes are high.

"Ending the collection of prescribing data will hamper pharmaceutical companies' ability to provide current information about drugs to physicians who need it most," said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Some states, including California, have already considered and rejected such laws.