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US Lawmakers Considering Legislation to Restrict Payments by Drug Companies to Doctors

Reports continue to pour in that US doctors tend to prescribe unwanted, even possibly harmful medicines in return for payments from drug makers in the name of lecture assignments.

Lawmakers are stepping in to see whether they could require drug makers to disclose payments made to doctors and also keep within certain limits such payments.

US psychiatrists, for instance, earn more money from drug makers than doctors in any other specialty.

Not coincidentally prescription of atypical antipsychotics to children is also shooting up, like never before, when such drugs considered risky for children and not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The term antipsychotic is applied to a group of drugs used to treat psychosis. Common conditions with which antipsychotics might be used include schizophrenia, mania and delusional disorder, although antipsychotics might be used to counter psychosis associated with a wide range of other diagnoses.

Atypical antipsychotics are second-generation medicines designed to cause fewer neurological complications than conventional antipsychotics. They include aripiprazole (sold as Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel), risperidone (Risperdal), and ziprasidone (Geodon). Each is approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and risperidone is also approved to treat irritability in children ages 5 to 16 who have autism.

Vermont officials disclosed Tuesday that drug company payments to psychiatrists in the state more than doubled last year, to an average of $45,692 each from $20,835 in 2005. Antipsychotic medicines are among the largest expenses for the states Medicaid program.

Over all last year, drug makers spent $2.25 million on marketing payments, fees and travel expenses to Vermont doctors, hospitals and universities, a 2.3 percent increase over the prior year, the state said.

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