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Law To Shed Light on Prescription "Payola" for Doctors?

June 11, 2007

Albany, NY - Many New York doctors get showered with gifts from big drug companies -- everything from Yankees tickets to trips and catered lunches. Critics say those gifts can influence a doctor's decisions when it comes to prescribing drugs. A proposed state law would require drug companies to publicly disclose those gifts, but the clock's ticking, with the legislative session running out. Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo with Columbia University says patient safety is at stake.

"There's been lots of studies showing that the kind of promotion the pharmaceutical companies do often have misleading bias and often have incorrect information. And if this is the kind of information that doctors are receiving, then patients should know that about their physicians."

Robert Restuccia with the Prescription Project points out that a study of gifts in Minnesota, where disclosure is required, found serious reasons for concern.

"Doctors who received more than $5,000 in gifts from drug companies were three times more likely to prescribe a particular anti-psychotic drug. We're concerned that gifts are impacting consumers, impacting physicians and impacting the cost of care."

The pharmaceutical industry believes the law isn't needed, and would require costly bookkeeping. Dr. Carrasquillo says that along with knowing about any disciplinary action brought against their doctors, patients have a right to know about potential conflict of interest.

This year, the AARP's Bill Ferris notes the bill is up against an "army" of lobbyists.

"We are hopeful this year that the senate will turn its back to all the opposition from the pharmaceutical industry and stand with the people. This bill doesn't prohibit anything, it just has the pharmaceutical industry report to the New York State Department of Health any gift they give to a doctor, over $75."

An identical measure made it through the Assembly last year, but died in the State Senate.

Michael Clifford/Jamie Folsom, Public News Service - NY