‘Marketplace’ (American Public Media) takes a look at what some states are doing to combat pharmaceutical sales reps influence on prescribing, and help get doctors the best evidence–without the sales pitch.

‘Marketplace’ followed “academic detailers” employed by the state of Pennsylvania as they visit with physicians. Tom Snedden, the director of the program, which employs 11 academic detailers–often nurses or pharmacists–said the program was small but effective in improving quality and reducing unnecessary costs.

“The industry’s trying to sell a product. What we’re trying to sell is clinically-appropriate prescribing,” he said. “Since the program began in 2005, the doctors who have met with academic detailers have prescribed fewer brand name drugs and fewer drugs overall.”

Other states have taken their cue from Pennsylvania since it implemented it’s academic detailing program 5 years ago. Three New England states are sharing best practices and resources in a regional academic detailing initiative. Legislation has passed in four states and D.C., while three additional programs were implemented by state Medicaid agencies.

This session in Wisconsin, Rep. Chuck Benedict has introduced an academic detailing bill, which is backed by the broad group of supporters, led by the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups. The bill will be heard in a joint public hearing on prescription drug reform in March.

And in Minnesota, academic detailing legislation is being considered as part of a prescription reform package. The bill (Sen. Sheran) backed by the newly-formed Minnesota Prescription Coalition, has cleared two key committees in the Senate and is now before the Finance Committee; a House counterpart (Rep. Liebling) is due to be heard by the House Health Policy Committee in early March. (More information at the coalition website)

Because of the success of such programs at the state level, development of a federal prescriber education program is underway.

Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, Chair of the Congressional Special Committee on Aging, sponsored the federal Independent Drug Education and Outreach Act of 2009.

And the Obama administration and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality have demonstrated support for this approach, too, including academic detailing as an example of an intervention to promote the adaptation and dissemination of comparative effectiveness research products in a request for proposals the Agency posted in September, 2009—a new round of AHRQ grants was announced last week as well.

Listen to the full Marketplace story, or learn more about prescriber education at Prescription Access and Quality and the Pew Prescription Project.

–Kate Petersen, PostScript blogger