Documents Show Drug Representatives’ Belief in Effectiveness of Physician Incentives
Adding to the controversy surrounding pharmaceutical companies' gifts to physicians, sales representatives for TAP Pharmaceuticals, which last year paid a record fine for illegal marketing practices, said that presenting food and "small gifts" to physicians was effective in increasing their company's drug sales, according to internal company documents, the Boston Globe reports. The documents, filed in an ongoing criminal investigation of the drug company's sales practices, showed how TAP sales representatives used such things as free food and items bearing the TAP logo to secure personal meetings with doctors to discuss the company's products (Murphy, Boston Globe, 11/17). In October 2001, TAP, a joint venture between Abbott Laboratories and Takeda Chemical Industries, settled a Medicare and Medicaid fraud case for $875 million, one of the largest criminal fines imposed by the government for health care fraud. Under a settlement with federal prosecutors, TAP pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to violate the Prescription Drug Marketing Act and settled civil cases with the federal government, the 50 states and the District of Columbia (California Healthline, 10/4/01).
Both the American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America recently have adopted guidelines for gift giving, but drug companies continue to offer physicians "freebies and fancy-dinner invitations," the Globe reports. The AMA guidelines allow for "modest meals" that are shared during informational meetings and for gifts valued at less than $100 that "benefit patients," but the guidelines are voluntary. Dr. Charles Welch, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, said, "There's problem behavior on both sides of this relationship. What we're concerned about is that some clinicians are willing to participate in not just accepting significant gifts, but also participating in bonus programs and other kinds of things which clearly are influencing their choice of drugs." TAP spokesperson Kim Modory said the company, in its settlement with the federal government, implemented mandatory ethics training for all sales representatives. Still, Welch said that the practice of gift giving will likely continue until there are penalties "for the people who offer these arrangements, and the people who accept them" (Boston Globe, 11/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.