Governor Patrick: Please Veto Gift Ban Loophole Provision in Budget

Glaxo-Smith-Kline’s ‘pheasant hunting junkets in Europe’ and other illegal kickbacks to doctors show that the strongest possible ban on inappropriate gifts is needed.

(Guest commentary by Wells Wilkinson, from Community Catalyst’s Prescription Access Litigation Project)

Yesterday’s new record-breaking settlement of $3 billion with Glaxo-Smith-Kline provides even stronger proof that the Massachusetts ban on inappropriate drug industry gifts to doctors is essential to preserving the integrity of patient care.  The settlement and related documents revealed that GSK salepeople paid or compensated doctors  through illegal kickbacks related to seven different drugs: Avandia, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Imitrex, Lotronex, Flovent and Valtrex.

“GSK’s salesforce bribed physicians to prescribe GSK products using every imaginable form of high priced entertainment, from Hawaiian vacations to paying doctors millions of dollars to go on speaking tours to a European pheasant hunt to tickets to Madonna concerts, and this is just to name a few,” said Carmin M. Ortiz, U.S. attorney in Massachusetts.

These expensive dinners were used by GSK to illegally promote the unapproved use of the drug Paxil to treat depression in children under 18. At the same time, the salespeople were giving doctors lavish spa treatments, while misrepresenting how effective Paxil was for these vulnerable patients, and withholding studies that failed to show Paxil was effective.

And GSK illegally promoted the drug Wellbutrin by paying ‘millions’ to doctors to travel to lavish resorts.

Yet at a time when state and federal regulators and investigators are ferreting out these illegal and inappropriate practices, Glaxo-Smith-Kline and big Pharma are throwing their weight around at the Massachusetts State House, and have succeeded in weakening the state’s ban on industry wine-and-dine practices in a budget bill to be sent to the Governor.

Why have these practices, more and more commonly seen as a form of bribery, become so widespread?  Because they work.

The reality is that if a new and expensive brand-name drug is uniquely effective, doctors will not need all these kinds of gifts to try it.

But if it’s a brand-name drug that is competing against other more affordable alternatives, that’s where these lavish marketing practices come in.

As Dr. Marcia Angel, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, said “The fact is that marketing is meant to sell drugs, and the less important the drug, the more marketing it takes to sell it. Important new drugs do not need much promotion.”

The Governor should take this to heart, and veto the partial repeal that stands to weaken the strong gift ban law here in Massachusetts.

About HCFA

The Ultimate Massachusetts Health Care Insider Information
This entry was posted in Prescription Drug Reform. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Governor Patrick: Please Veto Gift Ban Loophole Provision in Budget

  1. Dan Farnkoff says:

    Deval Patrick more concerned about protecting corporate profits than the kind of common-sense consumer protection and cost controls that were supposed to be a cornerstone of health reform. Both the Democrats and Republicans are a disgrace, and corrupt to the core.

  2. Beth says:

    “Important new drugs do not need much promotion.” Nothing could be more off-base. For every example of bad promotion, I can provide 10 examples of branded treatments with well-designed clinical studies (that’s right well-designed, believe it or not sometimes pharma sponsored studies do not work and thereby weed out the new medicines) which provide clear cut superiority data which are ignored in this state. Why? Because physicians get $$$$ kickbacks from health insurance companies and pharmacies for prescibing generic treaments. By the way, this practice is ILLEGAL in many states. Instead, in Massachusetts, it is illegal to provided FDA approved information in a restaurant which in many instances describe proven benefits from innovative medicine. That is why when you see a doctor in this state 90% of the time you get a medicine that was developed two decades ago. No thank you.

    The Gift Ban does absolutely ZERO to reduce the cost of medical devices or medicine. All it does is hurt numerous restaurants in Worcester, Fall River and Springfield. There is a reason why no other states adopt this horrendous legislation. Why are Therese Murray and so many other local politicians desperate to keep Blue Cross’ profits so high? This is a period of remarkable profitability for Health Insurance Companies. More drugs hve gone generic in the last 2 years than ever. Does Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA need 2 billion in reserve or 5 billion in reserve? Why do the profits of BCBS of Ma need to be protected? Do they whine and dine legislators? Why are all new drugs and devices bad? Why are all old medicines and device good? Is there never positive innovation?romotion.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s