Blumenthal gripes to state lawmakers about pharmaceutical industry

By John O'Brien | Apr 22, 2008


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - In formal testimony before the state's Legislature Monday, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal asked for help against influence wielded by prescription drug makers.

Blumenthal wants to make it illegal for drug companies to give gifts or other benefits to doctors that may influence their health care decisions despite a code of ethics the industry has already adopted.

Blumenthal said the code is meaningless and unenforceable.

"As multi-national, sophisticated, profit-driven companies, drug companies spend billions of dollars on relentless direct marketing to health care providers, seeking to increase sales and profits," he said.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations passed measures last year that prevent any of its members from paying for expensive gifts or trips for physicians. IFPMA members include industry giants Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Eli Lilly, AstraZeneca, Merck and Novartis.

Blumenthal said drug companies spend more than $11 billion every year to market their prescription drugs, and that research has found gifts influence health care provider decisions. He has filed lawsuits over the issue.

Specifically, Blumenthal proposes that Connecticut law:

-Prohibit any gifts, scholarships or other items in exchange for prescribing products, a commitment to continue prescribing products or to otherwise interfere with the independence of a health care provider's prescribing practices;

-Prohibit any gifts for the personal use of a health care provider;

-Prohibit any gifts to a health care provider for business use except for items of minimal value such as post-its, note pads, etc;

-Limit gifts for patient benefit to free samples of prescription drugs and items valued under $100;

-Prohibit any gifts or payments to health care providers for attending conferences but allow financial sponsorship of such conferences if the benefit of the sponsorship is distributed evenly among all attendees through reduced conference fees;

-Regulate payments to health care providers to serve as consultants, requiring written contracts, documentation of the criteria and the selection process for such consultants, articulation of the legitimate need for such consultant services; and

-Require all recipients of scholarships and other financial educational assistance to be selected by the participating academic or training institution and not the pharmaceutical company.

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