Recall my recent posting of March 21, 2006 regarding the President’s call for more transparency in health care. Some states aren’t waiting for an answer to that call, they are moving on their own.
Last month, Julie Appleby reported in USA Today that several states are entertaining legislation with the focus being the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies vis a vis physicians. While there is a voluntary code by which industry is said to abide, states are looking for more accountability.
At least three of the states are bellwether states – California, New York and Illinois. The article states that proposals range from banning all gifts for physicians (Massachusetts) to gift reporting, to gaining insight into advertising budgets. There are already four states that have such legislation. Obviously there is a trend building.
Once more states pass such legislation, the United States becomes a crazy quilt for marketing practices – what is allowed and what isn’t. Physicians in Iowa may be allowed to receive the free golf balls while in neighboring Illinois, a coffee mug must be publicly reported while in Massachusetts neither of these things could happen. As more states adopt legislative policy, the days of "free marketing" for pharmaceutical products may be coming to an end.
Before that happens though, industry has yet another serious public affairs challenge. Either these bills can be opposed at the state level, a difficult task given the growing number, or industry can move to upgrade the voluntary guidelines to include greater transparency.
In either case, the push to transparency is happening and pharmaceutical marketing will likely have to rely on less aggressive sales techniques vis a vis physicians.