Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, Inc.
425 U.S. 748 (1976)
Virginia had a law that made
it a crime for pharmacies to advertise prices for prescription drugs.
It was considered
'unprofessional' for pharmacists to advertise because aggressive
competition could impact service and encourage pharmacists to cut
The VCCC challenged the law,
claiming that it was an unconstitutional prohibition on free speech as guaranteed by the 1st
VCCC noted that drug prices
varied greatly among retailers and it was unfair to consumers to not let
The US Supreme Court found the
Virginia law to be unconstitutional.
Until this time, it had been
generally considered that advertising (aka commercial speech) was unprotected by the 1st
See Valentine v.
Christensen (316 U.S. 52 (1942)).
The Court reaffirmed their
recent decision in Bigelow v. Virginia (421 U.S. 809 (1975)), and found that commercial speech
is indeed covered by the 1st Amendment.
The Court noted that if a
State had a compelling government interest, they could still regulate commercial speech. They just couldn't completely suppress the
dissemination of truthful information about lawful commercial activities
because of fear about the information's effects.
For example, a State could
still prohibit false advertising, or regulate where billboards could be