Daniel J. Popeo, Chairman and General Counsel, Washington Legal Foundation

Many of the advances in health care in recent decades have come about because major players in the field — doctors, hospitals, researchers, government officials, drug companies, insurers, pharmacies — have been willing to share information.

That willingness has numerous benefits; for example, it ensures that medical breakthroughs are quickly communicated throughout the country, and facilitates medical research by enabling clinical trials to be set up rapidly.

But three states have adopted laws designed to obstruct that communication. Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine have concluded that too much truthful information is a bad thing because it encourages doctors to prescribe more drugs, thereby driving up the states’ health care costs.

Their laws bar the transfer of information regarding doctors’ prescribing practices, at least where the information might be used to promote prescription drug sales. In April, the Supreme Court will decide (in Sorrell v. IMS Health) whether Vermont’s speech ban violates the First Amendment. The Court can strike an important blow for both free speech rights and the future of health care by ruling against Vermont.

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