Small state, big pharma-payment crackdown

For such a tiny state, Vermont is exerting big-time pressure on drugmakers. The state legislature has passed a new law requiring drug and device companies to disclose all payments to doctors and other healthcare providers--publicly. Pharma will have to name names and specify dollar amounts, too. The law also would ban nearly all gifts--including meals--for docs, nurses, pharmacists, health plans and hospitals/clinics.

The upshot? Vermonters would be able to find out whether--and how much--their doctors have been paid, and by which pharma and device makers. Chapter and verse, dollar signs added and T's crossed.

Wait a second, you say. Didn't Vermont already have a doc-disclosure law? Yes, but it included a loophole you could march the Green Mountain Boys through. Specific expenses were allowed to remain private if companies called them "trade secrets." Coupled with the stringent gift ban, the legislation has been called the strictest state-level regulation of pharma-provider financial relationships.

Gov. Jim Douglas is expected to add his signature to the bill early next month, and if so, the law would take effect July 1. The Vermont numbers could be a sort of canary-in-a-coal-mine indicator of the many ways companies and providers interact financially.

- read the New York Times story

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