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Disclosure laws for doctors’ gifts, perks debated in congress

Article-Disclosure laws for doctors’ gifts, perks debated in congress

Washington — Congress is considering the question of whether expensive gifts and dinners from pharmaceutical companies to physicians should be disclosed to the public, reports UPI.

Proponents of a national registry to publicize the value of pharmaceutical companies’ pricey gifts and meals to doctors argue the database would help uncover the influence such perks could have when physicians prescribe drugs.

Industry critics say something must be done, because the unbiased exchange of information among researchers and practitioners about new drugs and medical devices has gradually been replaced by monetary incentives that, say the critics, pervade new treatments from the time a drug is studied in clinical trials to when it is approved for sale and prescribed for patients.

In a recent Senate hearing on the topic, one senator cited a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showing that 94 percent of doctors surveyed reported getting gifts and other perks from pharmaceutical firms.

UPI reports that Peter Lurie, deputy director of consumer watchdog Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, testified in the hearing that some states — including Minnesota, Vermont and Maine — and the District of Columbia have each passed laws requiring disclosure of drug company payments and gifts to doctors. Lurie says that information disclosed under Minnesota’s law revealed about $22.4 million in industry gifts to physicians.

But because many state laws have loopholes where, for example, trade secrets are concerned, Lurie said that what’s really needed is a national law.

Representatives from the American Medical Association and the drug industry testified that self-policing efforts within the industry and among doctors are working.

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