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Health Care Plans and Consumer Groups Unite and Call on Legislature to Pass Rx Gift Disclosure Law

- Shed Light on Drug Companies' Gifts to Doctors -

ALBANY, N.Y., June 13, 2007 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Health Plan Association of New York joined forces with AARP, Consumers Union, The Center for Medical Consumers, StateWide Senior Action Council, and NYPIRG, calling for a law to require drug companies to disclose how much they spend on gifts to doctors, such as trips, entertainment, speaking engagements, and meals.

The legislation, S.2971 (Maziarz) A.7468 (Gottfried), would require drug companies to publicly disclose gifts given to doctors that are valued above $75. The legislation is strongly opposed by the drug industry.

"The Legislature should pass this common sense bill and shine the light on how drugs are being prescribed in our state," said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. "AARP believes that a key factor in keeping drugs affordable and accessible is making sure they are prescribed on the basis of scientific effectiveness and evidence, not slick sales pitches and fine dining."

Drug companies spend over $7 billion a year on gifts, such as meals, trips, and entertainment, to doctors to persuade them to prescribe newer and, in many cases, more expensive drugs when less expensive alternatives, including generics, are just as effective. According to AARP's Rx Watchdog Report, the average cost of a brand name drug is $72, while the cost of the same drug's generic twin is $17.

"Spending on prescription drugs have skyrocketed in recent years, significantly impacting health care premiums," said Paul Macielak, president & CEO of the New York Health Plan Association. "While health plans recognize the importance of pharmaceutical care as part of a comprehensive benefit, there is concern about certain marketing practices and we believe patients have the right to know about the money being spent that might influence their physicians' prescribing decisions."

"Doctors should make their prescribing choices based on the evidence and the patient in front of them -- not because one company gives more and better gifts than another -- or in the case of generics and older drugs, no gifts at all," said Arthur Aaron Levin, Center for Medical Consumers.

"It's human nature that even modest gifts create in the recipient some sense of obligation and urge to reciprocate," said NYPIRG Legislative Counsel Russ Haven. "At a minimum, we need to shed some needed sunlight on PhMRA's generosity towards doctors and allow consumers to have access to that information."

"Consumers have a right to know if drug companies are giving expensive gifts, meals, entertainment, speaking fees and honoraria to their doctors," said Chuck Bell, Programs Director of Consumers Union. "We urge the New York Assembly and Senate to reject the special interest pleadings of the drug industry, and vote to end the culture of secrecy that shields the industry's gifts to New York doctors from public disclosure."

"This bill is long overdue," said John Eadie, Public Policy Special Advocate for the StateWide Senior Action Council. "The rapid upward spiral of prescription drug costs is having a major adverse effect on Medicaid, EPIC and other publicly funded health care programs, and on the state budget. It is essential that the state be able to evaluate what is driving the rapid escalation in utilization of the highest priced, brand name medications."

AARP has over 2.6 million members in New York State. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Posted: June 2007