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Supreme Court Case on Rx Data Mining Requires Nuanced Understanding of Privacy

On April 26, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that could have significant implications for patient privacy. Sorrell v. IMS Health, Inc., et al. challenges the constitutionality of a Vermont statute that prohibits the use of drug prescribing information for the purpose of marketing drugs to physicians and other prescribers, without the consent of the prescriber. The case has the potential to do real damage to privacy protections, but understanding the various risks posed by the case requires some careful unpacking of the ways in which "privacy" is — and is not — at issue.