Legal News
Vermont Passes Bill on Industry Gifts
Psychiatric News
Volume 44 Number 11 page 3-3

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 this month.

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. ▪

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