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Another Shot in Albany at Disclosing Gifts for NY Doctors

June 23, 2008

Albany, NY — Today, the New York State Legislature will try again to decide if drug companies must report gifts they give to doctors, of more than $75 in value. Supporters claim to have the necessary votes in the Assembly, but the Senate is less certain.

Bill Ferris, executive state director of AARP New York, believes the need for disclosure has never been greater. While generic drug prices have held steady, he says brand name drugs have shot up at twice the rate of inflation over the last four years.

"What's happening is that the gifts come in, and the salespeople come in, and they push doctors constantly to prescribe new high-cost drugs, when older drugs that are just as effective are available. And when this happens, it costs consumers money, it costs taxpayers money, and it costs the healthcare system money."

Opponents of the legislation say it unfairly targets one sector of the economy, subjecting drug companies to excessive regulation. But Ferris argues the health of New Yorkers is at stake. He says the drug industry, with what he calls its "army of lobbyists," is doing all it can to kill the bill.

Marsha Hams is with the Prescription Project, which just released a national survey on the issue this month.

"Sixty-four percent of the people we surveyed thought it was important to know what the industry was giving their physicians; and 80 percent thought they should not be able to get speaking fees. Seventy-eight percent thought they should not be able to get free lunches in the office from the industry."

Gov. Paterson had proposed an even tougher bill, which would have banned gifts in excess of $50. This is the third try for the idea of limiting gifts in the medical industry - disclosure bills failed in the last two legislative sessions.

Michael Clifford/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - NY