Non-disclosure agreements and embargoes converge

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Some people unwind by watching birds. Or bays. Ivan Oransky, M.D., executive editor of Reuters Health and AHCJ’s treasurer, is different. He watches embargoes (And retractions). And it’s in his capacity as editor of the Embargo Watch blog that Oransky reports on how the press roll-out of the Wal-Mart/Humana drug plan demonstrates a convergence between non-disclosure agreements and embargoes.

Oransky obtained the text of the non-disclosure agreement, which appears to be a standard embargo agreement, with one exception. Reporters are banned from contacting any sources about the story until Oct. 1, though a seemingly contradictory provision allows them to approach sources who have agreed to the agreement — a more common embargo-style approach. Oransky is working his way through the public relations chain now, trying to find out why a non-disclosure agreement was used in place of an embargo, and why the conflicting provisions were inserted. He’ll update the post as soon as he finds out.

Until then, we’ll go with Oransky’s guess that the odd agreement was a careful end-run around regulators.

Until I get more clarification, I’ll guess that Humana decided to do this for fear of reprisals from CMS if CMS had any reason to think they were marketing the plan before today.

While the agreement seemed to have delayed most coverage for a few hours, at least, the story still got a substantial amount of attention, especially in the business press.

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