N.Y. Gov aims to halt industry-physician conflicts of interest

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N.Y. Governor David Paterson
Image source: www.state.ny.us/governor

In an attempt to put the kibosh on pharmaceutical manufacturers who attempt to influence doctors and other prescribers with gifts and payments, New York Governor David A. Paterson has put forth nearly 10 pages of legislation in the 2010-2011 N.Y. State Executive Budget to help hinder these pay outs.

Outlined in the Health and Mental Hygiene portion of the bill, the document states that pharmaceutical companies “shall not offer or provide, and no healthcare professionals should accept” financial support, “tangible or intangible goods,” or any payment in cash or cash equivalents from pharmaceutical companies or manufacturers.

In addition, the legislation would prohibit drug companies from donating money to medical education programs in the state unless they have “separated continuing medical education grant-making functions from its sales and marketing departments and do not permit their sales and marketing departments to have any involvement in continuing medical education grant-making activities.”

Pharmaceutical companies that violate these guidelines could be fined $15,000 to $250,000 per violation. Healthcare professionals who violate the provisions could be slapped with fines of $5,000 to $10,000.

In May 2008, Paterson proposed legislation that would ban gifts and payments from drug companies in excess of $50 per year. In addition, the bill would have required practitioners and other healthcare professionals to disclose information of financial relationships with these companies to add further transparency to the system

“I believe that the vast majority of doctors and other prescribers work very hard to make appropriate decisions in the interest of serving their patients, but studies show that gifts can have an influence – perhaps even unconsciously – on prescribing decisions,” said Paterson. “This legislation will allow practitioners to exercise their clinical judgment and make prescribing decisions free of this influence.”

A 2009 survey completed by an Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Committee examined these conflicts of interests between healthcare professionals and drug companies. The survey results showed gifts from drug companies to physicians are “ubiquitous,” visits by drug company representatives are widespread, and many faculty members in the academic community receive funding from drug companies.

To prevent future conflicts of interest the committee offered the following recommendations:

  • Adopt and implement conflict-of-interest policies;
  • Strengthen disclosure policies and standardize disclosure content and formats;
  • Create a national program in connection with the U.S. Congress, drug companies and biotechnology companies to report company payments;
  • Restrict participation of researchers with conflicts of interest in research with human participants;
  • Reform financial relationships with industry in medical education;
  • Restrict industry funding and conflicts in clinical practice guideline development;
  • Provide education on conflicts of interest to medical students, residents and faculty of academic medical centers and teaching hospitals.

Paterson joins other states like Vermont, Minnesota, Maine and Massachusetts that have offered recommendations to limit these conflicts. Most recently New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram recommended banning doctors from accepting gifts from drug companies.