If Only the FDA Would Do Its Job!

August 4, 2008

Lawmakers to Consider Unbiased System to Compete with Drug Marketers

WASHINGTON, Aug. 1 — Congress is kicking around the idea of funding ostensible truth squads to disseminate unbiased reports on prescription drugs in an effort to counter claims made by drug company representatives.

A bill, introduced in both congressional chambers yesterday, would set up a grant program to send healthcare professionals to physicians’ offices armed with independent data about the relative risks, benefits, and costs of the drugs.

The bill stipulates that the healthcare field representatives — most likely nurses or pharmacists — would be barred from receiving money from any drug company.

“This bill will provide an important alternative to the way doctors currently get their information about drugs — from the drug companies themselves,” said Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), the sponsor of the Senate bill. “By providing physicians with thorough, independent research on all the drugs available to them, we believe we can improve the quality of healthcare and reduce the cost of prescription drugs in America.”

The bill would provide grants to academic medical centers, government entities, nonprofits, or research institutes to create educational materials on prescription and non-prescription drug information safety, effectiveness and costs, compared with other alternatives.

The bill would provide 10 grants for a public entity, a nonprofit, a private company, or an academic institution to develop a curriculum and to train those with appropriate clinical backgrounds to visit physicians’ offices to discuss medications.

“For far too long, most of the information physicians receive to make prescribing decisions has come from the drug companies’ marketing reps, not independent experts,” said Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the sponsor of the House version of the bill. “This important legislation will go a long way toward giving doctors another, less biased perspective.”

The bill is backed by the Prescription Project and the National Coalition for Appropriate Prescribing, which are calling the move toward a more education-based approach to prescribing “academic detailing.”

“We need a program like this to counter the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing free-for-all,” said Robert Restuccia, executive director of the Prescription Project. “Academic detailing programs already exist in other countries and in several states, and they’ve been shown to improve care and generate savings.”

The bill contains no projected price tag.

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