Update: WebMD ordered to send data to pharmaceutical developer

By Craig Stedman, Computerworld |  Business

Health care information provider WebMD Corp. yesterday was ordered by a federal judge to resume deliveries of pharmacy and medical claims data to a North Carolina company that does contract work for pharmaceutical manufacturers, pending a court hearing scheduled for Friday.

The decision by U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Boyle came one day after WebMD said it had curtailed data deliveries to Quintiles Transnational Corp. in Research Triangle Park, N.C. The two companies are embroiled in a legal dispute that started last month over their data-sharing agreement.

Elmwood Park, N.J.-based WebMD disclosed yesterday that Boyle issued an interim order requiring it to continue providing data to Quintiles in advance of Friday's court hearing. The judge's decision extended a temporary restraining order against WebMD that was issued by a state court but expired last Wednesday.

Quintiles, in its own announcement yesterday, said pharmaceutical makers and other organizations "rely on the uninterrupted flow" of data such as the information gathered by WebMD for important uses such as monitoring drug safety and doing public health screenings. At Friday's hearing, Quintiles plans to ask Boyle to issue a preliminary injunction barring WebMD's attempt to withhold the data in question.

WebMD has claimed some of the data being sent to Quintiles "raise patient privacy concerns" because elements of the information could be used to identify individuals -- a problem that it said came to light during a recent regulatory review. As a result, WebMD said Monday that it was blocking "data originating from certain sources" until the information could be more thoroughly cleansed.

The company, which initially notified Quintiles that it was suspending all data deliveries, said as part of Monday's announcement that it could resume providing some information because Quintiles cleansed its pharmacy database late last week. But WebMD added that "serious legal issues remain concerning its ability to provide Quintiles with the detailed data Quintiles seeks to obtain."

Under the data-sharing agreement between the two companies, WebMD provides health claim data to Quintiles, which then uses that information to develop market research information for pharmaceutical makers and other health care companies about the effectiveness of their products.

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