A task force convened by New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram was scheduled to meet yesterday to explore the issue of pharma gift-giving to physicians.
The kick-off meeting represented a first step by the AG to gauge what impact, if any, such practices have on the patient-physician relationship, how they legitimately advance the medical profession, as well as potential steps to prevent and identify abuse.
“As regulators of health care professionals in New Jersey, we want to ensure that patient care is guided by the unbiased exercise of the physician's best judgment,” the AG said in a statement.
Tools on the table include public disclosure of data, direct physician disclosure to patients and/or a limitation on payments accepted by professionals.
NJ would be the latest state to pass transparency measures. Several others have enacted laws for mandatory disclosure of gifts. One, Vermont, recently released its fourth report on pharmaceutical marketing disclosures filed by the drug industry. The report showed that from July 2005 through June 2006, 81 pharma firms spent $2.25 million on fees, travel expenses and other direct payments to Vermont physicians, hospitals, universities and others for the purpose of marketing.
Other states with mandatory reporting laws are Maine, Minnesota and West Virginia. The task force is studying them, Milgram said.
Transparency is also a focus among federal lawmakers. This month, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, along with Herb Kohl (D-WI), which would require drug and device firms to report gifts to doctors. The Senate Aging Committee explored the issue at a June hearing.
Milgram added that the NJ Board of Medical Examiners began asking physicians whether they have accepted gifts or other benefits from device and pharma firms and that the task force will help develop “follow-up questions” for those doctors who have received payments.