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NJAG Milgram Announces Task Force to Study the Influence of Gift-Giving to Physicians by Pharmaceutical Manufacturers, Medical Device Makers

TRENTON, Sept. 18, 2007 – Attorney General Anne Milgram announced today that she has convened a task force to explore the issue of pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers giving gifts and other compensation to physicians, and to determine what impact, if any, such practices have on patient care in New Jersey.

Known as the Attorney General’s Advisory Task Force on Physician Compensation, the panel is scheduled to meet for the first time on Wednesday. The task force includes New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Fred Jacobs, members of the State Board of Medical Examiners, practicing physicians, industry representatives and consumer advocates.

According to Milgram, the task force will study the impact of gift-giving and compensation practices on the physician-patient relationship and the extent to which such arrangements legitimately advance the medical profession’s knowledge of new therapies and devices.

The task force will also examine potential steps to prevent and identify abuses in the area of physician gifts and “incentives” including public disclosure of data, direct physician disclosure to patients, and/or a limitation on payments accepted by these professionals.

“As regulators of health care professionals in New Jersey, we want to ensure that patient care is guided by the unbiased exercise of the physician’s best judgment,” Attorney General Milgram said.

“It is critical that patients have confidence they are getting the best, most objective medical advice they can get, and that they be able to make fully-informed decisions about their own care,” said Commissioner Jacobs.

As part of its work, the Attorney General’s Advisory Task Force on Physician Compensation will examine the manner in which other states have addressed the gift-giving issue.

To date, reporting laws related to payments made to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical device providers have been enacted in four states – Vermont, Maine, Minnesota and West Virginia – and the District of Columbia.

In approaching its mission, the Attorney General’s task force will have an opportunity to review data concerning those who have acknowledged receiving substantial gifts and compensation.

Over the summer, for the first time, the State Board of Medical Examiners began asking New Jersey physicians whether they have accepted gifts or other benefits from medical device or pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Attorney General Milgram said input from the task force members will be important in developing follow-up questions for those medical professional who have acknowledged receiving compensation or benefits. Data collected by the task force will also assist the panel and the Board of Medical Examiners in determining whether policy reforms and/or regulations should be developed to assure that physician judgment is being exercised in the best interest of patients.

“The facts gathered by the task force and the Board of Medical Examiners will be critical in deciding whether additional reforms are needed to eliminate conflicts and provide greater transparency,” said Milgram.

Posted: September 2007