Court blocks broad subpoena of patient records

Amy Lynn Sorrel of American Medical News reports:

Louisiana physicians who were getting roped into the state’s lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company won a recent victory in their effort to defend their patients’ privacy. But doctors’ involvement in the case may not be over just yet.

The Louisiana attorney general is suing Janssen Pharmaceutica Inc., owned by Johnson & Johnson, for alleged illegal off-label promotion of Risperdal (risperidone). The state also claims the drug manufacturer defrauded Louisiana’s Medicaid program, which reimbursed for the drug.

Neither doctors nor patients are a party to the lawsuit. But the medical community contested what it called an overly broad trial court order allowing Janssen to subpoena doctors for the medical records of up to 6,000 Medicaid patients who were prescribed Risperdal.

The order also allowed Janssen to depose individual doctors about any aspect of their decision to prescribe Risperdal or any other antipsychotic medication to their patients. Physicians said the company went too far in its request and did not obtain proper consent.

Janssen contends in court papers that it cannot adequately defend the case without the patient information. The company argued that the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy provisions allow access to medical records as long as the files are safeguarded under a court order, which it had obtained.

Doctors feared that if the court order was allowed to stand, it would set a bad precedent, especially at a time when pharmaceutical litigation is increasingly prevalent.


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