N.Y., Minnesota consider new rules on pharma gifts

Legislatures debate tighter restrictions on relationships with industry and limiting drugmakers' access to prescribing data.

By — Posted Feb. 12, 2010

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Proposals in New York and Minnesota would ban most gifts to doctors from industry and enact other measures aimed at reducing drug and device makers' influence on physicians' medical decision-making.

As part of the budget plan he proposed in January, New York Gov. David Paterson advanced a ban on industry gifts to doctors such as restaurant meals or tickets to sporting events. Drug reps still could treat doctors to lunch in the office in connection with oral presentations.

Paterson also proposed a ban on payments to doctors except for bona fide, contracted consulting arrangements. The governor's other proposals related to industry funding of continuing medical education, consulting and guideline-writing committee conflicts of interest largely put legal force and the threat of financial penalties behind the drug industry's existing conduct code.

Drugmakers who skirt the proposed law would be fined as much as $250,000 for each violation. Doctors who violate the law by failing to disclose a financial conflict during a medical conference presentation would be fined up to $10,000.

The proposal also calls for allowing physicians to opt out of having their prescribing data sold to drug firms. The 2010-11 budget plan was submitted to the New York Legislature, which must pass a budget by March 31. If the proposals are adopted, they would become law.

In Minnesota, one of three bills bans entirely the sale of prescribing data to drugmakers. Another bill being considered in the Minnesota State Legislature would ban gifts worth more than $5 to doctors and require disclosure of any payments to physicians. The third bill would use drug-company fee revenue to pay for a so-called academic detailing program to send nonpharma reps to visit with doctors to share evidence-based prescribing information.

Chris McCoy, MD, a Rochester, Minn., internist, said he supports the legislation proposed in his state.

"These are important issues for our patients, and for restoring trust and integrity in the practice of medicine," said Dr. McCoy, instructor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and chair of the policy committee at the National Physicians Alliance, a liberal doctors organization that supports greater regulation of industry-physician interactions.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Assn. opposes the New York and Minnesota proposals, saying they would make it harder for drug firms to share useful drug information with doctors. The New York and Minnesota state medical societies did not comment to American Medical News about the proposals by this article's deadline.

The American Medical Association says physicians should not accept gifts worth more than $100 that do not benefit patients. Any physician can enroll, at no cost, in the AMA's Physician Data Restriction Program, which keeps prescribing information out of the hands of drug reps (link).

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