Gifts to doctors from big pharma

A article came out last week in JAMA providing some details from the Vermont and Minnesota reports that track "donations" made to doctors by the pharmaceutical companies. These monies, gifts, dinners, and trips have been disclosed to these two states as part of new laws supposedly enforcing regulations on gifts to doctors - but whether this regulation has any "teeth" is very debatable. For example, the Vermont law allows non-disclosure if the company can claim the gift is related to a "trade secret": not surprisingly, this loophole was abused.
Nevertheless, some interesting data emerges from the Vermont report:
  • In Vermont, 58 pharmaceutical companies said they made payments totaling $5.58 million in payments over the two years studied -- but they disclosed details for only 12,227 payments totaling $2.18 million. Another $3.41 million in payments were not disclosed based on the trade secret claim.
  • Of the companies reporting payments in Vermont, 13 companies during the first year studied and 10 more during the second year designated their payments as trade secrets.
  • The median payment in Vermont was $51 (range 0.22 to $63,458). Twenty-three percent of the 12,227 payments to Vermont doctors were for $100 or more.
  • About two-thirds of the $100 or greater payments in Vermont were in the form of food and 24.4% were cash, check, honoraria, or donation.
  • In Vermont, 28.4% of the $100 or more payments were designated for education, 25.5% to cover detailing, and 14.1% for speakers.
You wonder why the prescription drug machine keeps rolling on, despite Vioxx, women's HRT, antibiotic overuse, and so much more. Sometimes I really feel bad for the dedicated medical staff that really has only one option - drugs - to help improve the lives of patients. Then I think about the free trips to Hawaii...

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