HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Friday, June 1, 2012

War on Disclosure: Recent Fronts in Health Care

Corporations are at war with disclosure in many important fields.  Two notable fronts have recently opened in health care: 

1) Fracking processes have become highly controversial because secret chemicals may end up compromising water supplies.  Pennsylvania has now limited doctors' ability to speak about their concerns: 

Under a new law, doctors in Pennsylvania can access information about chemicals used in natural gas extraction—but they won’t be able to share it with their patients. . . .Pennsylvania law states that companies must disclose the identity and amount of any chemicals used in fracking fluids to any health professional that requests that information in order to diagnosis or treat a patient that may have been exposed to a hazardous chemical. But the provision in the new bill requires those health professionals to sign a confidentiality agreement stating that they will not disclose that information to anyone else—not even the person they’re trying to treat.

Protection of property rights uber alles appears to be the guiding principle here.  If only the doctors wanted to market drugs, maybe their free speech rights would trump the frackers' trade secrecy privileges.  

2) FDA User-Fee Bills recently approved by the House and Senate could seriously limit access to clinical trial information.  The House bill is particularly worrisome:

The Food and Drug Administration Reform Act of 2012, H.R.5651 . . . would keep potentially important health and safety information away from the public. Section 812 would, according to a letter to leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee penned by several [advocacy] groups, deny the public access to information relating to drugs obtained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from any government agency -- local, state, federal, or foreign -- if that agency has requested that the information be kept confidential.    

If that House provision survives the conference committee, there will be troubling implications for US patients and research subjects abroad.

[FP]

 

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