The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) has announced a ban on giving branded items to doctors. The pens, notepads, mugs and other gifts are ubiquitous in medical offices. Some, like Senator Herb Kohl, think it is a step in the right direction. "We've been pushing to see reforms like this for some time now. Consumers will undoubtedly be the beneficiaries of these industry changes." But the voluntary code does nothing to stem the more egregious ways that drug companies influence doctors, including speaking fees and lavish "educational" events. Kohl has co-sponsored a bill to require drug and medical device companies to publicly disclose payments to doctors of $500 or more, but does not ban them. Industry watchdogs are not convinced. One complained that "It strikes me as an attempt to persuade people against doing anything that's serious." The industry’s new policy, the Code on Interactions with Health Care Professionals, "will ask the chief executives of large drug makers to certify in writing that 'they have policies and procedures in place to foster compliance with the code.'" But because it is voluntary, there will be no accountability or regulation. Former U.S. Representative Billy Tauzin now heads PhRMA. Tauzin said, "This updated code fortifies our companies' commitment to ensure their medicines are marketed in a manner that benefits patients and enhances the practice of medicine." CMD staffer Anne Landman recently wrote about the perils of letting industries self-regulate.
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