Vermont may get even tougher on pharma

Vermont lawmakers are trying to sharpen the teeth of the state's doctor-disclosure law, which requires pharma companies to detail their payments to physicians. Currently, the law requires drugmakers to list the payments--for speaking engagements, consulting and the like--by dollar amount. The amounts are released in an annual report.

One big category of info is absent, however: Under a provision in the law that allows companies to keep certain "trade secrets" private, the doctors' names escape the sunshine. "There are lots of doctors in Vermont who don't take money from the pharmaceutical industry," Attorney General William Sorrell told the Vermont Press Bureau. "But because we can't reveal the identities of those that do, it paints the whole industry with the same brush, which is a real shame."

The legislature's proposed solution? An outright ban on gifts. Despite protests from some state doctors who say their relationships with pharma are a.) harmless and b.) nobody's business but their own, the state Senate would outlaw most any transfer of goods or services, except for free samples, peer-reviewed articles and educational scholarships. Also included in the bill is a provision that would require a state agency to analyze prescription-drug data to determine whether manufacturers are influencing prescribing patterns.

The state's House Health Care Committee starts hearings on its version of the bill next week. So stay tuned.

- read the VPB story in the Times-Argus