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Pharmacies Win Wider Ad Rights

April 30, 2002

In other matters Monday, the Supreme Court:

* Ruled that pharmacies that mix legal drugs for patients or doctors have a free-speech right to advertise their compounds.

The Food and Drug Administration has exempted these specially made "compounded drugs" from obtaining government approval, but it also barred pharmacists from promoting their mixtures.

On a 5-4 vote, the court said this restriction is unnecessary and violates the 1st Amendment (Thompson vs. Western States Medical Center, 01-344).

* Agreed to take up a case that could open the way for more lawsuits against cities and counties over dangerous intersections and highways.

To obtain federal highway safety funds, local agencies and railroads submit data on the most dangerous intersections. The number of vehicle accidents that happened there is tallied.

Since 1983, federal law has said this information is private and is shielded from lawyers for plaintiffs.

But in a novel twist on the states' rights debate, the Washington state Supreme Court struck down the federal law, saying that it trampled on the state's turf.

State Atty. Gen. Christine Gregoire urged the Supreme Court to take up the case and to restore the privacy shield for this data. She backed an appeal filed by Pierce County, Wash.

The justices voted to hear the case, Pierce County vs. Guillen, 01-1229, during the fall.

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