Though much attention was focused on national reforms this spring, several states made moves toward greater transparency in the pharmaceutical industry, and toward curbing the industry’s marketing influence on prescribing. Connecticut passed a law requiring companies to create codes of ethics at least as strong as the PhRMA code, and Vermont and Colorado expanded transparency efforts.

This week, Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell signed a bill into law that requires all pharmaceutical and medical device companies that do business in Connecticut to write a code of ethics that meets, at minimum, the PhRMA code and submit it to the state.

“After four years, Connecticut passed important pharmaceutical provisions into law,” advocate Jean Rexford said. She heads the Connecticut Center for Patient Safety, which pushed for passage of the law and similar bills in the past. “Pharmaceutical companies will be required to write a code of ethics, submit it to our Attorney General’s office and if that code is not followed, there will be a $5,000 fine under our Unfair Trade Practices Act.  We had a great coalition working on this—Connecticut AARP and Consumers Union activists generated thousands of emails.  But it’s our Attorney General’s office and Representative Ritter and Senator Harris who deserve the most credit.  It took years but we finally got there.  Over those four years I have seen a change: accountability and transparency are now understood to be an important part of health care reform.”

In May, the Colorado legislature sent a bill to the governor that would require Colorado to post payments disclosed through the federal Sunshine Act on its state website. Gov. Ritter indicated this week that he intends to sign the bill.

“The availability of information to consumers on pharmaceutical payments to physicians allows consumers to have conversations with their doctors and to draw their own conclusions on conflicts of interest,” said Lynn Parry, a physician who heads the Colorado Prescription Coalition, which supported the bill. “These conversations have to include any person who can be affected by industry relationships.”

Vermont also clarified and expanded its existing transparency and gift restriction law, explaining that small food and drink given at a conference is permitted, and requiring that drug samples, including their recipient and amount, be disclosed in 2012. This disclosure mimics the provision that samples be disclosed to the federal government beginning in 2012 recently passed as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Read more about some drugmakers’ recent samples reporting to Congress at the Wall Street Journal.

–Kate Petersen, PostScript blogger