The ruling in IMS v. Sorrel came as Vermont legislators passed a
measure (S 48) that restricts gifts to physicians from manufacturers of
prescription drugs, medical devices, and biological products
(see Judge Says Prescribing
Data Can't Be Marketing Fodder). Supporters of
the bill, which included the Vermont Psychiatric Association (VPA), the
Vermont Association for Mental Health, and the Vermont Medical Society, told
Psychiatric News that they expected the governor to sign it sometime
Prohibited gifts include most payments, food, meals, entertainment, travel,
subscriptions, or anything else of value provided to health care
professionals, health care organizations, nonprofit groups, and state-funded
academic institutions. Also, health care professionals must report all
payments or gifts they receive, and such information must be posted online.
Pharmaceutical companies are allowed to offer financial support to accredited
CME sponsors for educational conferences and to pay for faculty honoraria and
travel expenses. Companies must disclose to the state attorney general's
office annually by a specified date all expenditures allowed under the law
made to health care professionals.
The tighter reporting requirements allow more transparency than was
required under an earlier gift law, according to Jonathan Weker, M.D. Weker,
secretary of the VPA, testified in support of the legislation on behalf of the
VPA. For one, the legislation closes a loophole that allowed companies to
obscure whether specific clinicians accepted gifts and payments when"
trade secrets" were involved.
"Reports showed psychiatrists to be among the largest recipients of
these drug-maker funds," he said.
The physician reporting requirements include any funding received for
research grants or formal clinical trials, according to officials from the
Vermont Office of Legislative Affairs. However, the details would not be
publicly disclosed for two years or until the end of the clinical trial,
whichever comes first.
Similar gift-transparency legislation (S 301) is pending in Congress,
although the Vermont measure is considered more comprehensive. The federal
legislation has bipartisan support but has not advanced since it was
introduced in January. ▪