BOSTON — Community Catalyst applauds Vermont lawmakers who on Saturday passed the strongest gifts ban and transparency bill in the country, making information about drug company payments to doctors in the state more complete, transparent and accessible to consumers.
Passed with overwhelming support in both houses, “An Act Relating to Marketing of Prescription Drugs (S. 48) strengthens and expands the state’s current disclosure and gifts ban law. First passed in 2002, it requires companies to disclose payments to physicians, but allows them to designate payments as trade secrets, effectively hiding the details of those payments from the public. The law passed today closes the trade secret loophole, expands the ban on gifts and meals to include medical device companies, and establishes a publicly searchable website that will house the payment information.
“As a state that was early out of the gate on pharmaceutical transparency, Vermont’s experience has shown us that the best disclosure law for consumers is one crafted without loopholes, and with public accessibility in mind,” said Marcia Hams, director of Prescription Access and Quality at Community Catalyst.
Drug companies spent $2.9 million on payments to health care professionals, hospitals, universities and clinics in Vermont in 2008, the attorney general’s office reported earlier this year. Payments designated as trade secrets jumped from 72 percent to 83 percent of the value of all reported payments between FY 2006 and FY 2008. And the proportion of all disclosed information fields declared trade secrets – the details of which may not be shared with the public – jumped from 41 percent to 74 percent last year.
“Vermont and other states have really provided the spark for the national transparency movement we are seeing,” Hams said. Community Catalyst has worked to craft and support similar transparency and gifts legislation in other states, including the Massachusetts law passed in 2008.
The newly-strengthened bill shares much with the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a proposal Congress is considering that would require pharmaceutical and medical device companies to disclose all payments to physicians. The federal law, which would establish a single online searchable database, could ease state enforcement and administrative efforts.
About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to quality affordable health care for all. Since 1997, Community Catalyst has been building the consumer and community leadership required to transform the American health system. With the belief that this transformation will happen when consumers are fully engaged and have an organized voice, Community Catalyst works in partnership with national, state and local consumer organizations, policymakers, and foundations, providing leadership and support to change the health care system so it serves everyone—especially vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org.