This was in todays USA Today.
Feds warn drugmakers: Gifts to doctors may be illegal
By Julie Appleby, USA TODAY
The Bush administration told doctors Tuesday essentially: Buy your own golf balls,concert tickets and vacations because drugmakers who offer such incentives risk running afoul of the law.
In a draft meant to offer guidance to the industry, the Office of the Inspector General took aim at some common practices and said they could lead to civil or criminal charges.
Suspect activities include:
Paying doctors to act as consultants or researchers in marketing efforts.
Paying pharmacies or doctors to switch patients from one drug to a competitor.
Providing scholarships, grants for research or other gifts with more than nominal value to doctors.
The guidance comes after years of concern about some drug industry marketing practices. Critics say such tactics influence doctors to prescribe certain drugs and lead to higher costs for consumers. The draft lays out for the first time in one document what the government expects.
The draft — now up for 60 days of public comment — says some nominal-cost gifts are OK but does not give specifics. Instead, it says a voluntary ethics code adopted this summer by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America should be considered a "minimum standard."
That code says sales reps can buy doctors meals on occasion but only in conjunction with medical education. Golf balls or bags emblazoned with drug company logos are not allowed. Neither are tickets to entertainment events, cash payments or other incentives given for prescribing products.
The draft guidance also says drug companies can face charges for reporting average wholesale prices that differ substantially from what is actually charged — and touting those pricesin marketing.
That's because the government uses those prices on the few drugs covered by Medicare. If the drugs are sold for less, doctors can bill for the higher amount and keep the difference. It's a tactic drugmakers use to
lure doctors to their products, costing taxpayers $1 billion annually, the government estimates.
Does anyone have a problem with this? I see it as a great step forward. I am actually surprised that the drug companies have been allowed to do some of the things listed.