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Vermont Enacts Sweeping Gift Ban; Affects Drug, Device, Biologics Manufacturers

MONTPELIER, Vt., May 11th, 2009-  Late Friday night, in the final hours of the 2009 session, the Vermont Senate and House agreed on a sweeping law to close loopholes in the state's existing gift and payment disclosure law, and to ban many gifts from manufacturers of prescription drugs, medical devices and biological products. The gift ban includes food and free meals.

The bill, S.48, mandates full disclosure of allowable gifts to physicians, health care organizations, non-profit groups and state-funded academic institutions, and insures a higher degree of transparency in the state's health care system.  The legislation is now headed to the Governor for signature.

"The bill allows consumers going to their physician to know whether their doctor is taking money from the pharmaceutical companies," said President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin (D-Windham), sponsor of the bill.  "The bill allows for greater patient and consumer empowerment and in these difficult economic times, it is a good step toward addressing our rising health care costs."  

"With passage of this important piece of public health policy, Vermont has taken another step to take away undue influence on prescribing patterns and to provide our citizens with the most cost effective and  efficacious medicines."  said Senator Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland).

Despite heavy lobbying by the pharmaceutial and biotech industries, the legislation received broad bipartisan support in Legislature, and was supported by organizations including the Vermont Medical Society and Vermont Public Interest Research Group.

"This legislation is sweeping and comprehensive.  Vermont now joins Minnesota and Massachusetts in tackling head-on the pervasive influence of payments and gifts on medical practititioners through a ban on many gifts," said Sharon Treat, Executive Director of the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices (NLARx).  "Once again, NLARx members have taken the lead."  Senator Shumlin and Senator Mullin are both NLARx members; Senator Mullin is Vice Chair of the Board, and Shumlin was a founding member of the organization.

Although Vermont already required disclosed many gifts and payments to prescribers, the new law closes a trade secret loophole which resulted in most data being submitted in aggregate form, and with the public in the dark about whether their own providers accepted gifts and payments.  

The Vermont legislation is more comprehensive than pending transparency legislation in Congress, sponsored by Senators Kohl and Grassley, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. Besides Vermont, Massachusetts and Minnesota, other states with transparency laws, none of which are as comprehensive as the new Vermont law, include the District of Columbia and Maine. Legislation similar to the Vermont law is pending in Oregon.

About the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices

NLARX is a non-partisan, non-profit organization of state legislators from across the country working to lower prescription drug costs and improve access to affordable medicines. Members include legislators from states in all regions of the country, from New England to Alaska and Hawaii and the District of Columbia. For more information and to sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter, visit our website at

Alexandra MacLean, Vermont Senate, (802)828-3806
Sharon Treat, NLARx, (207)242-8558

Posted: May 2009