Bill Targets Gifts Given By Drug Companies

Tuesday, July 10th 2007, 4:15 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A bill awaiting action in a House committee next year would require representatives of drug companies to publicly report gifts they give to doctors, just as lobbyists report spending on lawmakers.

Rep. Ryan McMullen, D-Burns Flat, wants representatives of drug companies to make reports to the Oklahoma Ethics Commission of expenditures on doctors and gifts given to the physicians.

``The public is quite capable of determining which gifts, if any, they believe are inappropriate,'' McMullen said. ``Medical lobbying should be held to the same standard as political lobbying.''

He said drug industry representatives say internal self-policing guidelines are in place that guard against excesses in gift-giving to doctors.

``If that's the case, the pharmaceutical industry should have nothing to fear in allowing the public to shine a light on their lobbying efforts,'' McMullen said.

He pointed to recent U.S. Senate hearings on the idea of a national registry similar to his plan for Oklahoma. He also said two states _ Minnesota and Vermont _ already had enacted similar legislation.

``Ideally, Washington will act and we will have a simple, uniform registry, publicly disclosing all drug companies' gifts and lobbying expenditures,'' McMullen said. ``But even if Washington isn't successful, I believe Oklahoma families will still have a right to that kind of information.''

He said he would like reporting of drug companies' expenditures on doctors to be the same as the reporting requirements for those who lobby lawmakers. Ethics Commission rules require lobbyists to disclose expenditures of $50 or more on a legislator during a six-month period and caps expenditures at $300 for a calendar year.

A national survey released earlier this year said four of five doctors acknowledged letting drug and medical device makers buy them food and drinks.

Consumer advocates said the survey, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was proof that voluntary guidelines on gift-reporting by the industry were not working.

Besides receiving gifts of food and drink, 78 percent of doctors accepted free drug samples, 35 percent were reimbursed for costs tied to professional meetings and others pocketed consulting or lecture fees and free tickets to athletic games and other events.

Representatives of the drug industry have said such legislation is unnecessary and an infringement on doctors getting information about benefits and risks of treatment options.

Emily Hall, legislative liaison with the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said the OSMA did not have a position on McMullen's bill at this point. ``Right now, we are just neutral,'' she said.