Congress debates pharma gift disclosure

While state efforts to require disclosure of pharma gifts to doctors have proven a bit, well, wobbly, federal legislation is still on the table.

Yesterday, members of Congress were discussing just such a measure--a national registry that would publicize the value of gifts and payments to physicians. The hearing, before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, was tagged "Paid to Prescribe?"

At the hearing, chairman Herb Kohl (D-Wisc) cited a study published by The New England Journal of Medicine suggesting that 94 percent of doctors get gifts and perks from pharmas.

"Gifts and payments can compromise physicians' medical judgment," he said.

Other speakers, including Peter Laurie of consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, noted that disclosure laws in states like Minnesota, Vermont and the District of Columbia are ineffective, with pharmas using loopholes like labeling the gifts as trade secrets to avoid disclosures. The AMA, meanwhile, argues physicians can self-police their pharma relationships adequately.

To learn more about the debate:
- read this United Press International article

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