Trend: States try to counter pharma drug marketing

As we reported last year, a small but growing number of advocates have begun working to provide their own brand of drug education to doctors--without the sales message that pharmaceutical companies deliver. These "counter-detailers," as they are known in some quarters, are paid by groups outside the industry to visit with doctors and provide neutral, hype-free information on medications. Previously, we told you about one effort, paid for by the state of Pennsylvania, which sent out 500 clinicians to discuss prescribing options.

Over the past year, it appears that the idea has become more popular. Today, a handful of states, including Pennsylvania, Vermont and South Carolina, have rolled out programs presenting drug cost and effectiveness information. Vermont's program focuses on rural medical practices, and South Carolina's focuses on mental-health drugs. Pennsylvania, which spends $1 million a year on its "unsales" force, has reported that it managed to cut costs on drugs for seniors with the program; for example, the state began saving $60 on average per doctor on pain relievers within six months after an unsales visit. However, it's not clear the others are successful. (Small wonder, given that the pharmaceutical industry spends more than $7 billion a year on direct marketing to doctors.)

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Associated Press piece