ECRI v. Guidant

Topic(s): 
Internet Free Speech — Miscellaneous
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Case Description: 

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, sought to guarantee ECRI (Emergency Care Research Institute), the nation’s leading independent medical product testing organization, the right to publish information about Guidant’s medical devices. ECRI’s guide was intended to assist hospitals, health care consultants, group purchasing organizations, health plans and government agencies with decisions about the cost-effectiveness of various competing medical devices that they are considering.

Guidant developed a business model purportedly requiring all of its customers to keep the prices it charges for its products confidential. Despite the fact that ECRI and other members of the public did not know of this new business model or consent to be bound by confidentiality clauses in Guidant’s contracts with its customers, Guidant claimed that the public is bound to obey its contracts with customers and therefore ECRI should not be allowed to publish Guidant’s product prices.

Guidant’s claims of contract interference were unfounded because ECRI has not used unlawful means to obtain information about the prices that hospitals pay for Guidant’s medical devices and because the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause prohibit Guidant from binding third parties to conditions they never agreed to, the suit said. Moreover, Guidant’s attempt to suppress publication of product prices also contravened the strong public policy favoring price transparency. Under Guidant’s business model, even pacemaker patients and implanting physicians were forbidden from knowing the price of the device.

After Public Citizen’s local counsel took over the lawsuit, the case was settled.