“We are pleased that the Prescription Project's push for more ethical marketing and payments by the pharmaceutical industry to prescribers is bearing fruit," said Robert Restuccia, executive director of the Prescription Project. "We welcome this belated recognition by the industry that its current marketing practices fail to serve the needs of patients and the healthcare community. A voluntary restriction on the small gifts used by pharmaceutical companies to curry favor with doctors is a step in the right direction. It is an important complement to efforts by state and federal policymakers to limit industry marketing.
“However, PhRMA's codes have never been adequately enforced. Promotional spending by the industry has increased, rather than declined, since the updated 2002 PhRMA code. Data from Vermont – one of the few states to require disclosure of marketing payments – show that the industry failed to comply with its own 2002 voluntary code. For instance, the 2002 code stipulated that meals provided should be ‘modest by local standards.' Yet, in 2006, there were 676 payments for food valued at over $100. A report released today by the Vermont attorney general showed an overall 33% increase in payments over last year. Additionally, at a recent hearing of the Massachusetts legislature, a PhRMA representative was unable to identify a single instance where a company had been investigated or sanctioned for failing to comply with the code. Moreover, not every pharmaceutical company belongs to PhRMA or subscribes to the voluntary code. A voluntary code does not take the place of legislation.
“Other questionable pharmaceutical industry marketing practices are not addressed by the new code. These include lucrative consultancies and “speakers bureaus” that pay practicing physicians thousands of dollars to promote particular products to other prescribers. This has been the fastest growing category of industry marketing in recent years. We call on the industry to fully disclose all such payments, consistent with its support of proposed federal legislation.
“We are also concerned that, despite this public modification of PhRMA's voluntary guidelines, industry lobbyists are working around the country to undermine efforts to pass laws that would protect the public by restricting industry payments or by mandating transparency.”
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 seeks 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.