29 May 2009

Drug Companies Generous to W.Va. Providers

The pharmaceutical industry gave 15,382 gifts, grants or payments last year to at least some of the 5,152 doctors and nurse practitioners who can write prescriptions in West Virginia, The Associated Press reports.

AP cites a new report from the state Pharmaceutical Cost Management Council, which has required disclosures from the companies regarding advertising and gifts to prescribers.

The gifts range from "from the cost of a lunch to outlays of $20,000 or more," Breen found, and "a single prescriber who serves as an international spokesman for a company got payments between $125,001 and $127,500."

But the disclosures have their limits.

"The report didn’t track payments made to each prescriber, so that some prescribers may have gotten multiple gifts and some may have gotten nothing," AP notes. "The report also didn’t provide a total dollar figure for the gifts, instead tracking gifts across broad ranges. For example, companies reported making 42 payments of $20,000 or more to prescribers and 574 payments of $2,500 or more."

Officials told Breen that while "the report doesn’t say what the payments were for...typically they ranged from lunches at the lower end to addressing conventions at the higher end."

And while the report lists "total direct-to-consumer advertising costs of nearly $31 million," Breen writes that the amount "wasn’t spent solely on West Virginia, though, since ads here — especially on radio and TV — are often bought for markets that include portions of neighboring states."

"The manufacturers, though, caution that the report doesn’t tell the full story, and point to the tens of millions of dollars’ worth of free medicine they donate in West Virginia every year," the AP article said.

Others with coverage include The Charleston Gazette and MetroNews.

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