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Limiting pharmaceutical marketing

Published (3/13/2009)
By Patty Ostberg
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A bill that would limit the use of prescription information obtained by companies that sell prescribed products was approved March 10 by the House Health Care and Human Services Policy and Oversight Committee.

Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester), sponsor of HF491, said many physicians and patients don’t know that prescription information is sold to pharmaceutical marketing companies. The data is used to market drugs to specific physicians in a process called “detailing,” a marketing strategy whose multi-million dollar cost is passed onto consumers, she said.

Greg Beaumont, a former detailer, said he would get weekly, monthly and quarterly reports on specific medications that almost every doctor in the state was prescribing. He would then market products to doctors prescribing certain classes and types of drugs to increase business.

Vernon Rowen, vice president of government affairs for Express Scripts Inc., said the bill goes too far in protecting information. The changes would prevent his company from being able to market generic drugs to physicians to help save money. “It still does not carefully craft the exceptions,” he said.

Liebling countered “it does not cut off the flow of information” for companies like Express Scripts, rather it would prevent specific types of marketing and allow for education and research.

Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) said the bill needed more work and unsuccessfully moved to table the legislation.

A similar New Hampshire law was upheld last year in the federal court of appeals.

The bill now goes to the House Commerce and Labor Committee. A companion, SF1044, sponsored by Sen. John Doll (DFL-Burnsville), awaits action by the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee.

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