The California Senate has voted to ban drug manufacturers from incentivizing doctors with gifts. This was accompanied by evidence that over $1.4 billion was spent last year on gifts to Californian doctors, including expensive meals and airline tickets.
“While we have witnessed the cost of drugs rise over the past decade, industry profits have also grown significantly. We should be all standing for seniors and taxpayers to drive down the cost of prescription drugs,” said California Sen. Mike McGuire (D).
Senate sent the bill to Assembly in a vote of 23-13. The new law was modeled after a law enacted in Vermont in 2009, which required pharmaceutical companies to publicly disclose all money given to doctors and other medical staff. Eight other states and the District of Columbia have also passed laws to limit drug company gifts.
Sen. McGuire represents the district west of Sacramento. He said, ”Throughout the state, some of our largest hospitals and medical centers have realized the importance of limiting gifts from the pharma industry to doctors — it’s time the state of California bans these types of gifts and incentives, which will put patients above profits.”
Sen. McGuire says that in 2014, California doctors received more payments and incentives than any other state in the country. According to RT.com, a study by the University of California-San Francisco “found that doctors who receive pharma gifts are two to three times likely to prescribe name-brand drugs at higher costs than generic drugs.”
Still, opponents of the bill say that pharma profits are important because they drive medical research forward. They also worry that doctors will be less likely to participate in clinical trials. The bill allows doctors to get a salary for clinical trials and receive up to $250/year in meals from pharmaceutical companies.
The gifting system perpetuated by big pharma is inarguably contributed to the national painkiller epidemic, where now an estimated 91 people die every day from opioid overdose. Last year, unsealed court documents obtained by STAT showed a “crusade” since the 1990s by the makers of OxyContin, Abbott Laboratories and Purdue Pharma, to sell opioids by incentivizing physicians.
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