Drug Companies Will Be Forced To List Gifts Made To Doctors If Legislation Passes

On June 27th, a Senate hearing was held regarding the pharmaceutical industry’s routine practice of promoting and marketing drugs and medical devices by showering doctors with gifts. Drug companies which attempt to persuade doctors to prescribe their drugs provide doctors with meals at high-priced restaurants, stock options, sponsorships for educational programs, drug samples, tickets to sporting events and Broadway shows, lab professorship funding, and trips to educational conferences at popular vacation areas with airfare, car rental, and hotel costs included.

Senator Clair McCaskill, Missouri Democrat, and Senator Herb Kohl, Wisconsin Democrat and chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, said that they will work to create legislation creating a national registry that would list the payments and gifts made by companies making medical devices and drugs to doctors. J. Gregory Rosenthal, Toledo Hospital in Ohio’s chief of ophthalmology and founder of Physicians for Clinical Responsibility,testified at the hearing that some doctors “are literally trading independent medical integrity for corporate profits.” The Food and Drug Administration has no jurisdiction over such practices.

In 2002, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) created voluntary guidelines regarding the payment and acceptance of gifts. However, The New England Journal of Medicine reports that 94% of doctors it surveyed admitted to getting gifts from drug companies.

About $19 billion a year is spent by pharmaceutical companies to market their drugs and devices to doctors. This practice is highly questioned in light of the increasing costs of drugs and health coverage.

Vermont, Maine, and Minnesota have passed legislation that requires pharmaceutical companies to disclose gifts and payments made to doctors. The Minnesota legislation shows that approximately $22.4 million worth of gifts have been made to doctors. Psychiatrists in Minnesota were among the most to earn gifts from drug companies.

The New York Times reports that the psychiatrists who received the most gifts in Minnesota were psychiatrists with a tendency to prescribe children antipsychotic drugs more often than others. Ken Johnson, Senior Vice President of PhRMA, in citing the drug industry’s strong opposition to such state legislation, stated that Minnesota’s laws “do not recognize that safeguards already exist to make sure the information provided by company representatives is accurate and well-substantiated.”

PhRMA has not taken an official position on the federal registry, but Marjorie Powell, PhRMA’s senior assistant general counsel, has stated that many doctors make prescribing decisions based on the lists of drugs health insurers provide to them rather than on the marketing efforts of pharmaceutical companies. Powell also stated the importance of noting that doctors are professionals and are trained to evaluate the information given to them.

Medical journals are also affected by similar conflicts of interests due to dependence on grants from drug companies which are often unrestricted. Editors often avoid publishing information about treatments or research that may lead to the loss of an advertiser such a drug company that regularly spends large sums of money on advertising.

If you believe that you have been harmed by a dangerous drug, please contact our office to speak with a personal injury attorney who will try to help. The personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience in handling personal injury claims involving dangerous and defective products Levine & Slavit has offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas including Westchester County.

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