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Does the HIPAA Privacy Rule's public health provision permit covered entities to disclose protected health information without authorization to a manufacturer of a product regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by the manufacturer to assess the effectiveness of its marketing campaign?


No. The public health provision is intended to facilitate the flow of information that is essential to the FDA’s public health mission. The provision does not permit covered entities to disclose protected health information to a manufacturer for the manufacturer’s commercial purposes, or for any other non-public health purpose.

For example, the Rule does not permit a covered entity to provide a drug manufacturer with a list of persons who prefer a different flavored cough syrup over the flavor of the manufacturer’s product. Rather, this provision permits covered entities to disclose protected health information as necessary to continue current voluntary reporting of adverse events and similar reports that are necessary to ensure the quality, safety, or effectiveness of an FDA-regulated product.

For instance, a covered entity would be permitted to report a concern to a drug manufacturer that its cough syrup might be unsafe based on the belief that a difference in the taste could be due to drug tampering or a manufacturing problem. Likewise, a covered health care provider would be permitted to disclose protected health information to a drug manufacturer to report that the failure of a patient’s medical condition to improve may be due to the drug’s ineffectiveness. In making such a report, the covered entity may disclose the protected health information that is reasonably necessary to achieve the purpose of the report.

Learn more about public health uses and disclosures and the minimum necessary standard.



Date Created: 12/20/2002

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on July 26, 2013