Study: Pharma disclosure laws not working

Despite state laws requiring disclosure of pharma firm payments to doctors, pharmaceutical companies don't seem to be operating much differently in Vermont and Minnesota than they do elsewhere. The study, which appears today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, was co-authored by Peter Lurie, deputy director of consumer advocacy firm Public Citizen's Health Research Group and Health Research Group director Dr. Sidney Wolfe.

The researchers concluded that while pharmacos like Pfizer, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline paid out millions of dollars to physicians in these states over the period studied, they frequently found ways around the state's reporting requirements. To avoid disclosing these payments, the pharmas skirted the laws' requirements by classifying payments as trade secrets, failing to file the mandated annual reports or 'accidentally' failing to provide the name of the provider receiving payments, the researchers said. For example, in Vermont, pharmas said they made 12,000 payments adding up to $2.18 million from 2002 to 2004, but designated 61 percent of the payments as "trade secrets," the JAMA researchers concluded.

The paper also noted that payments from pharmas were often more than $100, a limit suggested by both the American Medical Association and drug company association the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA). The authors are recommending that Vermont eliminate the trade secret exemption for pharma payments to physicians, as well as establishing a central agency tasked with collecting and distributing pharma payment data.

To get more data from the study:
- read this United Press International article