NY Governor Proposes Restrictions on Drug Company Perks

<"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">Drug companies have recently been under fire for all the freebies they pass along to doctors in attempts to prompt prescribing of higher-cost medications. Times Union reports that New York State Governor David Patterson, is proposing more stringent rules on pharmaceutical companies.

Industry is known for giving away everything from pens and mugs to dinners and tony vacations to gain support from prescribing doctors. Now, those gifts could be restricted along with misleading information used to promote specific medications, said TimesUnion. Nine other states have ratified legislation that has changed the way Pharma markets, said the National Conference of State Legislatures.

“This will benefit patient care and reduce costs in the Medicaid program, as more expensive drugs will not be prescribed for the wrong reasons,” Paterson said, quoted TimesUnion. The governor is looking to prevent Big Pharma from continuing to exert influence over how doctors prescribe medications, noted TimesUnion.

“Cracking down on the gifts that the drug industry gives to doctors could lead to more-independent prescribing by physicians,” said Bill Ferris, a lobbyist for senior advocacy group AARP, quoted TimesUnion. “Doctors are constantly being solicited to prescribe high-cost, brand name drugs when equally effective, less expensive drugs may be available,” Ferris added.

For instance, in mid-2009, we wrote that while the pharmaceutical industry maintains that drug samples are meant to assist uninsured and low-income patients, the practice of physicians in this country giving out such samples has long been debated. ScienceDaily previously wrote that in a PLoS Medicine essay, two experts said this practice “has many serious disadvantages and is as anachronistic as bloodletting and high colonic irrigations.”

Susan Chimonas, a researcher at the Center on Medicine as a Profession at Columbia University, New York, and Jerome Kassirer, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and a distinguished professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, wrote the essay and argue the tradition is “not effective in improving drug access for the indigent, does not promote rational drug use, and raises the cost of care,” quoted ScienceDaily. The two cited research pointing out that many free samples, “are appropriated by physicians for personal or family use,” reported Science Daily. Also, according to the two, one study found that close to half of the industry sales reps surveyed admitted to either using samples themselves or doling them out to friends and relatives, proving that samples are both misused and given to the wrong demographic.

The two also found that samples do not necessarily lower patient cost. “Indeed, evidence shows that patients who received free samples had higher out-of-pocket costs than their counterparts who were not given free samples,” reported ScienceDaily, citing the essay. Because companies look to earn back costly marketing through increased pricing, samples only really serve to raise health care prices.

According to TimesUnion, Paterson’s administration does not expect to see money with the change, but hopes New Yorkers will understand that they will receive their medications appropriately. Pharmaceutical companies in violation of the law will be fined between 15,000 and $250,000 per violation; health care professionals would be fined between $5,000 and $10,000, said Times Union, which explained that the state Department of Health would be the enforcer, relying on complaints to name violators.

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