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Consumers fight to disclose drug companies' attempts to buy doctor loyalty

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In Vermont, which actually has some form of public disclosure requirements, the pharmaceutical industry still managed to give $2.9 Million to doctors, hospitals, and universities. Because of a loophole in the disclosure law (which is also implemented in at least 4 other states), the public has no idea who received lavish gifts.

A report released Wednesday showed that at least 25 doctors and nurses received more than $20,000 in cash or benefits from the prescription drug giants, which included Eli Lillly and Co., Pfizer Inc., Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp., Merck & Co., and Forest Pharmaceuticals Inc.

An additional 10 doctors and nurses received more than $50,000 and one unnamed psychiatrist received an astounding $112,000.

Because of a "trade secret" loophole, the public does not know who received those lavish gifts. Vermont’s attorney general William Sorrell and consumer advocates argue that consumers and health care patients would be better served by a system that permits people to know which physicians, psychiatrists and nurses are paid handsomely by the pharmaceutical industry to encourage and promote their drugs.

An association for psychiatrists and physicians support changing the Vermont law that would prevent the use of "trade secrets" as a way of keeping the public in the dark as to who gets these gifts. Other states across the country as well as Congress would greatly increase consumer confidence in both physicians and drug companies by having disclosures laws like these on the books in addition with other forms of consumer protection. Michigan, for example, needs to change its prescription drug immunity law to ensure that people who are injured by harmful drugs have a chance to recover in state courts.