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Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc.

Citation. 425 U.S. 748, 96 S.Ct. 1817, 48 L.Ed.2d 346 (1976).

Brief Fact Summary.

Plaintiff challenged a Virginia law which prohibited the advertising of prescription drug prices on First and 14th Amendment grounds.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Commercial speech is protected speech that can be regulated to protect the public from deceptive, misleading, and untruthful information.

Facts.

A Virginia law held a pharmacist guilty of unprofessional conduct if he published, advertised, or promoted, directly or indirectly, the price of a prescription drug. Plaintiff challenged the law, arguing it violated the First and 14th Amendments.

Issue.

Whether the Virginia law violates the First and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

Held.

Yes. The Virginia law violates the First and 14th Amendments of the Constitution.

Dissent.

Justice Rehnquist

This decision is too far reaching. The Court has overruled a legislative determination that such advertising should not be allowed and has done so on behalf of a consumer group which is not directly affected by the statute even in question.

Concurrence.

Justice Burger

This decision is specific to prepackaged drugs. A case involving the traditional learned professions of medicine and law would involve different factors.

Justice Stewart

This decision calls into immediate question the constitutional legitimacy of every state and federal law regulating false or deceptive advertising.

Discussion.

Virginia is free to require whatever professional standards it wishes of its pharmacists; it may subsidize them or protect them from competition in other ways. But it may not do so by keeping the public in ignorance. There is a substantial public interest in the content of advertisements.

The law at issue singles out speech of a particular content and seeks to prevent its dissemination completely. The state may not completely suppress the dissemination of concededly truthful information about entirely lawful activity. Judgement affirmed.


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