Majority of Americans Support Legislative Action to Disclose Pharmaceutical Company Gifts to Physicians

Contact: Kip Patrick, 202.552.2135, Kathy Melley, 617.275.2861


Boston, MA - 06/18/2008 - A majority of Americans (64%) say that it is important to know their physician’s financial ties to pharmaceutical companies and 68% would support legislation requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose gifts to doctors, according to the results of a new survey released today by the Prescription Project.  The pharmaceutical industry spends more than $7 billion annually marketing to physicians, much of that marketing in the form of free gifts – ranging from pens and meals to continuing medical education classes and lucrative speaking engagements. 

“Most Americans are unaware that the money pharmaceutical companies spend trying to directly influence physician prescribing patterns is larger then the amount spent on research and development of new drugs,” said Robert Restuccia, Executive Director of The Prescription Project, a national campaign to end conflicts of interest resulting from pharmaceutical marketing to physicians.  “Our survey clearly shows that national legislation like the Physician Payments Sunshine Act would be embraced as a way to help consumers understand and assess the impact of those interactions.”

The survey showed that most Americans disapprove of even small gifts to physicians, believe that the pharmaceutical industry has a large influence over prescribing decisions, and support legislation that addresses these issues. Among the highlights from the survey:

•  52% of Americans believe that accepting gifts from the pharmaceutical industry influences how physicians make prescribing decisions (saying that the impact is either extremely large or large); another 26% believe these gifts have a moderate influence

•  Respondents tend to disapprove of most gifts to physicians:

          — 86% believe free dinners should not be allowed 
          — 80% believe speaking fees should not be allowed 
          — 78% believe free lunches at the office should not be allowed 
          — 70% believe free note pads and pens should not be allowed 
          — 62% believe free attendance at mandatory continue medical education classes should not be allowed 

•  64% believe it important to know physician’s financial ties to pharmaceutical companies

• 68% would support legislation requiring pharmaceutical companies to publicly disclose any gifts or payments given to physicians

• 62% support legislation that makes it easier to tell how much money and gifts a doctor receives from pharmaceutical companies

• 71% would support legislation that enables clinical experts to provide unbiased non-commercial information about drugs to physicians in their offices

• 55% say they would be unlikely to directly ask their physicians if he or she has accepted gifts, speaking fees or other financial support from a pharmaceutical company

“A wide majority of Americans want to know about the financial ties between physicians and industry.  What’s more, physician groups and a growing number of drug and device companies are coming on board the transparency movement.  This survey makes clear that transparency is an idea whose time has come,” said U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Congress is currently considering The Physician Payments Sunshine Act (S.2029 and H.R.5605), which would require drug and medical device manufacturers to report certain gifts and payments given to physicians. Both the Senate (sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Herb Kohl) and House (sponsored by Representatives Peter DeFazio and Pete Stark) legislation would create a national and publicly accessible online database of gifts and payments, and would impose financial penalties on companies that fail to disclose.

In addition, Massachusetts and New York are considering legislative proposals, including disclosure of, and prohibitions on, certain gifts and payments, to lessen the influence of pharmaceutical marketing on physicians.

“The relationship of trust between a physician and his or her patient is being eroded by concerns over the impact of pharmaceutical marketing on prescribing decisions,” Restuccia said. “Survey data shows that Americans want more information about these relationships, but don’t want to ask these questions in the exam room.”

The survey was conducted by the national firm ICR during June 4, 2008 – June 8, 2008; 1009 adults from across the United States responded. To view survey results, please visit www.prescriptionproject.org.

About The Prescription Project

The Prescription Project is led by Community Catalyst in partnership with the Institute on Medicine as a Profession. Created with The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Project promotes evidence-based prescribing and works to eliminate conflicts of interest in medicine caused by pharmaceutical marketing to physicians by working with academic medical centers, professional medical societies, public and private payers, and state and federal policymakers. For more information, please visit www.prescriptionproject.org.

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