Drug company gifts to doctors

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Shahram Ahari, who worked for two years as a sales representative for Eli Lilly promoting drugs such as Zyprexa and Prozac, described the his role as a rep as being to "to figure out what a physician's price is. For some it's dinner at the finest restaurants, for others it's enough convincing data to let them prescribe confidently and for others it's my attention and friendship...but at the most basic level, everything is for sale and everything is an exchange."[1]

U.S. Moves to Ban, Limit and/or Disclose Drug Company Gifts to Doctors

In June 2007, Public Citizen compared the key provisions of U.S. state-based disclosure laws of drug company payments to medical professionals.[2]

General Provision Detailed Provision Washington D.C. Minnesota Maine Vermont West Virginia
Company Disclosures to Agency Itemized report of each payment Yes Yes No Yes No
No payment categories exempt from disclosure No No No No No
Submission via internet No Yes No Yes No
Enforcement mechanism Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Public Access to Disclosed Info Disclosures explicitly made public record No No Yes No No
Agency Reports to Legislature Required annual report of aggregate data Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Easily accessible on the Internet Reporting Not Yet Begun Reporting Not Yet Begun N/A Yes Reporting Not Yet Begun


In January 2008 the Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition, a coalition of groups working on healthcare policy, proposed new legislation aimed at curbing the cost of prescription drugs. (Coalition members include Health Care for All, AARP, Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group; the American Heart Association and health insurance companies Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Neighborhood Health Plan.)[3] The coalition proposed three key measures, which were:

  • "action to ensure that pharmaceutical companies do not use financial incentives to influences prescribers";
  • a ban on data-mining by which drug companies can fine tune marketing strategies that influence the prescribing practices of individual doctors.
  • substitute publicly-funded evidence-based information on drugs rather than relying on drug company provided marketing information.[4]

In early March 2008, Massachusetts state Senate President, Therese Murray, proposed a bill which would ban all drug company gifts to doctors.[5]


In 1993 the Minnesota legislature legislated to limit drug companies from giving gifts to doctors with a value of over $100 in a year. Under the legislation drug companies were required to "to report and make public any consulting fees paid to doctors", the New York Times reported.[6]



West Virginia

Articles and Resources


  1. Adriane Fugh-Berman and Shahram Ahari, "Following the Script: How Drug Reps Make Friends and Influence Doctors", PLoS Medicine, April 24, 2007.
  2. Peter Lurie, Joseph S. Ross, Adina H. Rosenbaum, and Jason Krigel, "Testimony on State Laws Requiring Disclosure of Pharmaceutical Company Payments to Physicians (HRG Publication #1817)", Testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, June 27, 2007. See also "Appendix 2: Comparison of State Pharmaceutical Company Payment Disclosure Laws", Public Citizen, June 2007 for a more detailed breakdown of the provisions of the different statutes.
  3. "Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition: Who We Are The legislation unveiled by the coalition included a provisions", accessed March 2008.
  4. Massachusetts Prescription Reform Coalition, "New Coalition Asks State Leaders to Reform Prescription Drug Practices", Media Release, January 17, 2008.
  5. Megan Woolhouse, "Ban on gifts to doctors sought: Murray targets firms' freebies", Boston Globe, March 4, 2008.
  6. Gardiner Harris, "Psychiatrists Top List in Drug Maker Gifts", New York Times, June 27, 2007.

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