Drug Marketing Disclosures Show Nearly $3 Million In Payments To Vermont Prescribers

MONTPELIER, Vermont, April 15, 2009 - In the twelve months before July 1, 2008, 78 pharmaceutical manufacturers spent $2,935,248 on 2280 Vermont doctors, hospitals, universities and others for the purpose of marketing their drugs. “Three million dollars is a lot of money in a state our size,” said Attorney General William H. Sorrell. Twenty-five doctors and nurses received more than $20,000 in cash or benefits from pharmaceutical companies, ten more than $50,000, and one psychiatrist received more than $112,000. Today the Attorney General released his sixth annual Report on Pharmaceutical Marketing Disclosures. The disclosures do not include the costs of advertising in TV, radio, or print media.

The Attorney General’s report reflects a decline in pharmaceutical marketing expenditures of nearly 30% over the last five years. “We don’t know if this reflects largely financial decisions by the industry or a mere desire to avoid public scrutiny,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

The Vermont legislature is considering a bill, S.48, which would eliminate the current practice of pharmaceutical manufacturers claiming that their payments to or on behalf of specific doctors, or for specific drugs, are protected from disclosure under the umbrella of “trade secret.” More than 80% of the expenditures analyzed for the report have been designated trade secret by the companies, making it illegal for the Attorney General to release the specific information to the public. “Our report could be so much more useful if legislative changes are made. It makes sense that Vermonters be able to see how much, if any, individual doctors are receiving in cash payments and from the manufacturers of which particular drugs,” said Attorney General Sorrell.

Under current law, the Attorney General cannot release the dollar amount spent on individual drugs unless the manufacturer agrees. According to the report, more than $445,000 was spent on drugs for diabetes, and more than $200,000 was spent on drugs for each of the categories of hypertension, depression, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The greatest expenditure for a single drug was for an ADHD drug.

If the proposed law is passed, consumers will eventually be able to look up their doctors and find out what kind of benefits they are receiving from pharmaceutical manufacturers. Consumers will also be able to see the extent to which a manufacturer is promoting a particular drug to Vermont prescribers. Analysts will have access to information to help assess whether marketing expenditures are influencing prescribing habits.

The Vermont Medical Society and the Vermont Psychiatric Association support the proposed legislation in order to increase transparency and improve patient confidence.

The proposed legislation would also ban most gifts to doctors and other health care professionals. Whether or not food should fall within the gift ban is still being debated. In the year covered by the Attorney General’s report, more than 11% of the recipients received more than $1000 in free food, one recipient reportedly received more than $15,000 in free food; only 40% received less than $100 in food. (Free drug samples, certain scholarships, and payments for academic or scientific articles and journals would not be banned under the bill.)

For a copy of the report and the publically available data upon which it is based, check the Attorney General’s website at: www.atg.state.vt.us.

Contact: William H. Sorrell, Attorney General, (802) 828-3173

Posted: April 2009


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