Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Something Rotten in Minnesota, Disclosure Law Reveals

The print media is continuing to take advantage of Minnesota's law requiring the reporting of payments from pharmaceutical companies to physicians. Earlier in the year, the New York Times printed several articles that shone a light on suspicious practices by comparing the list of physicians receiving payments to the physicians prescribing certain drugs for Medicaid.

Now, the Associated Press has brought forth the news that two members of the Minnesota Medicaid Drug Formulary Committee, that decides important questions as to which drugs will be reimbursed by the Medicaid system, have both received big bucks from the industry. A psychiatrist earned $350,000 (most presumably in speakers' fees) over a 2-year period; a pharmacist earned $78,000 during that time.

Both of them, plus the committee chairman, stated that these payments did not affect their work on the committee. I guess they have to say that, as unbelievable as it must sound to anyone with half a brain. However, the Committee is now thinking about (!) instituting some new rules to deal with conflicts of interest.

I admit that for a while I was rather skeptical about the value of gift disclosure laws such as Minnesota's. The goal is to stop these conflicts of interest in medicine, not to disclose them. But given the way that publicity is being used in the right hands to stimulate change, I am becoming convinced that this is at least a necessary intermediate step, however much work still remains to be done.

Associated Press. Financial ties link docs, drug companies. August 21, 2007;

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