Thursday, May 1, 2008

Massachusetts legislators are pushing a bill to ban all Pharma gifts to Doctors. "Vermont and Minnesota are two other states that have taken steps in this direction."

Eli Lilly CEO worries about this.

NECN (New England Cable News)

Eli Lilly CEO on pharmaceuticals and doctors’ gifts

Boston, Mass
May 1, 2008
Peter Howe

The CEO of Eli Lilly was in Boston Wednesday for a medical industry conference. John Lechleiter weighed in on some legislation pending on Beacon Hill that could have a major impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

As CEO of Eli Lilly, John Lechleiter oversees a business with 40,000 employees and revenues of nearly $19 billion. But the Massachusetts State Senate got his attention last month, passing what would be the nation's most draconian ban on drug company gifts to doctors. Nationally, there's growing attention on meals, sports tickets, trips and trinkets doctors get from drug companies. Whether freebies such as these influence what drugs they prescribe patients. The Senate bill would make Massachusetts the first state to ban all pharmaceutical company gifts - completely.

Video here:
Massachusetts already leads the country, Lechleiter says, in prescribing cheap generic drugs for Medicaid users. So he questions whether doctors here really are being wooed by pharma reps to push expensive name brands. The bigger issue, he contends, is doctors being cut off from solid information that happens to come from a drug rep.

“Imagine how detrimental that could be to the health of patients. Would any one of us want to be a patient or have our mother or daughter be a patient and not be knowledgeable about the latest breakthroughs in medicine? That's the kind of information our sales people discuss with physicians so that patients at the end of the day can benefit.”

"Even pens and pads of paper would be forbidden gifts from pharmaceutical companies to doctors.”

With good reason, says a top Senator. He cites major medical journal studies.

Richard Moore: “Gifts, even as simple as a pen or a pad with the name of a particular drug on it, expensive dinners or trips or paying someone to have their name on an article, really undercut the integrity of the medical profession.”

UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester has sharply restricted what their doctors can take from drug companies, and other hospitals are weighing bans. But Lechleiter says one overlooked group that could be hurt are financially struggling medical practices in low-income areas that make good use of free products from big pharma.

“What you might find, may be some brochures in Spanish if it's a Hispanic population aimed at helping people understand what is diabetes and who is susceptible to diabetes.

These are the sorts of things that unfortunately, in the current legislation, could be blocked or cut off.”

The ban on drug company gifts to physicians is just one piece of a complex piece of legislation Senate President Therese Murray got through the Senate.

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