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Article published Apr 16, 2009
Drug makers give $2.9 million in gifts
By JOHN CURRAN The Associated Press
MONTPELIER — The nation's pharmaceutical makers spent more than $2.9
million on Vermont's doctors, hospitals and universities to market
their products in the last fiscal year, according to a report issued
Wednesday by the state attorney general's office.
down slightly from the previous year, but Attorney General William
Sorrell says he's not sure if the drug companies are tightening their
belts or if they want to avoid public scrutiny for the payments, whose
recipients aren't identified.
The report shows 78 companies
spent the money in the year ending July 1, 2008. By law, the companies
have to report their spending on consulting and speakers' fees, travel
expenses, gifts and other payments to or for physicians, hospitals,
universities and others authorized to prescribe drugs.
The cash payments are made directly to health care providers, Sorrell said.
'I pay you money to give me feedback on how your patients react to my
drugs,' 'I give you free samples that you can prescribe to your
patients,' 'I'll pay you a consulting fee or take you to dinner or pay
for you to take a trip someplace to hear lectures or presentations on
how this drug works or how effective it is for various conditions,'"
The Pharmaceutical Marketing Disclosure Law,
adopted in 2002, requires drug makers to report their spending by Dec.
1 and the attorney general to issue a report summarizing it. At least
four other states have such disclosure laws.
The industry says
the money helps pay for education programs about drugs for doctors and
patients and that the companies develop some of their medicines using
Among the findings of the report released Wednesday:
Lilly and Co., Pfizer Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., Merck &
Co. and Forest Pharmaceuticals Inc. were the biggest spenders.
doctors and nurses each got more than $20,000 in cash or benefits from
the companies, 10 got more than $50,000 and one psychiatrist took in
In the year ending July 1, 2007, 84 companies had
reported spending $3.1 million, following a larger trend in which the
number of companies spending the money increases but the overall amount
The report doesn't identify the recipients of the
money, an exemption at the heart of a bill before the Legislature. The
bill would eliminate the drug companies' ability to claim "trade
secret" in providing the information to the state but barring the state
from releasing it to the public.
Sorrell said more than 80
percent of the expenditures analyzed for the report claimed the trade
secret designation. He said consumers would be better off if that
weren't an option so people would know if a health care provider
recommending a drug had been paid by its manufacturer.
"If I was
a patient or one of my kids was a patient, and my doctor was telling
me, 'You ought to try drug X,' I would like to know that my doctor
received $40,000 from the company that manufactures and markets this
drug," he said.
The Vermont Medical Society, a physician
advocacy group, and the Vermont Psychiatric Association, an
organization of psychiatrists, endorse the bill. They say it would
improve patient confidence if the information were public.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents
drug companies, says much of the money goes toward helping doctors know
when to prescribe a certain medication.
"An individual who's
prescribing, particularly a new medication, needs to know when it
should be used, what patient populations it should be used for, for
what conditions and when it should not be used," said Marjorie Powell,
senior assistant general counsel for the group, a trade association.
The group opposes elimination of the exemption, saying it would allow competitors to know their trade secrets.
amount I'm spending on how to improve a product would be valuable
information to a company that's considering making a competing
product," Powell said.
She said the reason for the trade secret designation wasn't to hide anything from patients.
On the Net:
Pharmaceutical Marketing Disclosures report: http://www.atg.state.vt.us/upload/1239813108—2009—Pharam—Report.pdf