Major drugmakers spent nearly $2.5 million in one year in Vermont on marketing their products to doctors, hospitals and others, according to the first report under Vermont's unique 2001 drug marketing disclosure law.
The law requires disclosure of "any gift, fee, payment, subsidy or other economic benefit provided in connection with detailing, promotional or other marketing activities by the company, directly or through its pharmaceutical marketers, to any physician, hospital, nursing home, pharmacists, health benefit plan administrator or any other person in Vermont authorized to prescribe, dispense, or purchase prescription drugs in this state."
Vermont's first-in-the-nation disclosure law does not require companies to report mass advertising, money paid to "detailers," drug company employees "who promote products to prescribers and others in Vermont" or for product discounts and rebates. The report listed 44 pharmaceutical companies making expenditures covered under the law in Vermont during the 12 months ending June 30, 2003. The five leaders were GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Merck, Forest Pharmaceuticals and AstraZeneca.
"Many people might be surprised to see how much money is being paid by drug companies to doctors and other professionals in our small state," said Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell, who wrote the report. "Right now we are the only state that requires these disclosures. It will be interesting to see, given the level of these payments and expenditures, whether other states follow Vermont's lead."
A spokesman for the industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said its officials had not seen Sorrell's report and could not comment on it. The law exempts free drug samples given doctors for use by patients, pay and expenses for participants in clinical trials, gifts or other benefits worth less than $25, and educational scholarships.
Sorrell made several recommendations for strengthening disclosure requirements. He said the companies should be required to provide more description differentiating between sales efforts by the "detailers" and educational efforts.
He said the companies also should be required to disclose rebates and discounts offered in Vermont.