The climate for pharma-to-doctor giveaways may have grown a few degrees colder yesterday, when a pair of advocacy groups kicked off a campaign intended to bring down further restrictions on giveaways. Healthcare consumer group Community Catalyst and Columbia University research group the Institute on Medicine as a Profession are beginning a national initiative calling for tighter limits on drug company relationships with doctors. The initiative is funded by a $6 million grant from the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The groups are taking aim at the $12 billion per year pharmaceutical companies spend marketing to doctors, which goes to everything from free drug samples to pens to free lunches for medical practice staffers. The campaign, known as the Prescription Project, follows a wave of restrictions on doctor-drug company relationships at academic medical centers like Yale, the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. The group would like to see more academic medical centers jump on board with limits on what pharma reps can give doctors, in addition to participation by doctor organizations and third-party payers.