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Consumer Advocates Call on Legislature to Support Governor's Ban on Pharmaceutical Gifts to Doctors

ALBANY, N.Y., Feb. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A coalition of concerned consumer advocate groups, including AARP, NYPIRG, Consumers Union and Center for Medical Consumers, called on the New York State Legislature today to accept the Governor's budget proposal to ban pharmaceutical company gifts to doctors. This ban would exclude prescription drug samples for the benefit of patients and focus on gifts valued at over fifty dollars.

Pharmaceutical companies, in many instances, influence physicians to prescribe new high cost brand name drugs when equally effective, less expensive versions may be available.

"Pharmaceutical manufacturers spend billions of dollars annually in gifts and other payments to doctors" stated Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. "Science and research should be the guide to prescribing the most effective prescription drugs, not sales pitches and gifts from manufacturers to physicians."

"At a time when the state budget is under enormous pressure from medical inflation and an ailing economy, curbing the drug industry's influence on physicians is right on target," said Chuck Bell, Programs Director for Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports. "Inappropriate drug industry influence undermines patient safety, and drives up costs for New York State taxpayers.

"Consumers need to know they can have faith in the medical system and that their doctor is prescribing a drug that is not only effective, but cost effective." said Blair Horner, Legislative Director for the New York Public Interest Research Group. "The gifts drug companies give to doctors erode this trust."

"Rational prescribing and the right drug for the right patient, too often suffer from the undue influence of industry gifts," stated Arthur Levin MPH, Director, Center for Medical Consumers.

New York State has a responsibility to both consumers and taxpayers who help fund public prescription drug programs, such as Medicaid and EPIC, to curtail the undue influence that the pharmaceutical industry has over prescribing decisions and the quality of healthcare.

The legislation would also require presenters at continuing professional education programs to disclose any financial relationships they have with pharmaceutical companies.

According to a January 2006 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) entitled Health Industry Practices That Create Conflicts of Interest, approximately 90% of the $21 billion marketing budget of the pharmaceutical industry continues to be directed at physicians.

Additionally, according to an April 2007 article in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled A National Survey of Physician Industry Relationships, 94% of the surveyed physicians reported having a relationship with pharmaceutical sales representatives and close to 30% of those surveyed received payments from drug companies for consulting and giving lectures.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; AARP Segunda Juventud, our bimonthly magazine in Spanish and English; NRTA Live & Learn, our quarterly newsletter for 50+ educators; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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