States Fight Drug Company Spin

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Every year, pharmaceutical companies spend some $23 billion trying to convince doctors to prescribe their drugs. The industry employs about 90,000 drug reps, also known as “detailers,” to make friends with the doctors, dole out gifts, and make the case for drugs personally. Some drug companies even engage in data-mining to target specific doctors who might be susceptible to marketing efforts. 

To combat drug company bias, states have begun employing “academic detailers,” according to John Buntin in Governing, providing “independent, evidence-based information on how best to treat complex medical conditions.” Pennsylvania, a state that spent $2.5 billion last year filling prescriptions, hired the first academic detailers, and South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Washington D.C. quickly followed suit. 

Other states have gone further, forcing drug companies to disclose gifts to doctors. Others have tried to ban data-mining, and some doctors aren’t happy. “The government is saying that you can have a license to prescribe narcotics, but we can’t trust you with gifts of pens and paper,” Dr. David Stein of Primary Care Associates told Governing. “That’s the way we’re being treated. The best term I can use is we’re being treated like whores.”

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