Attorney General’s office releases drug pricing study

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(Host) Vermont Attorney General Williams Sorrell has released the results of a year-long study of prescription drug pricing.

VPR’s Steve Zind has the details.

(Zind) Prescription drugs are the fastest growing area of health care spending, and Sorrell made a study of prescription drug pricing his priority as president of the Attorneys General Association. Now, as his term ends he’s released a 100-page report outlining his findings.

The report doesn’t draw conclusions or make recommendations; in some cases it presents opposing views of industry experts.

Assistant Attorney General Julie Brill says the report provides a valuable resource for federal and state policymakers because it puts into a single document a wealth of information about the pharmaceutical industry. And Brill says some of the information may surprise people.

(Brill) “We hear a lot about direct to consumer advertising but in fact marketing to physicians dwarfs by a tremendous amount the amount that is actually spent on direct to consumer advertising.”

(Zind) The report estimates that in 2003, for example, the pharmaceutical industry spent more than $76 billion marketing to physicians, compared to an annual average of only three billion dollars spent on consumer advertising.

The report also details how pharmaceutical companies spend their money. It says the largest chunk of the drug company dollar – 34 percent- goes to marketing and administration. That’s compared to 14 percent spent on research and development.

Finally the report details efforts in other countries to control the price of pharmaceutical drugs – and it reviews a number of state initiatives which Brill says Vermont policymakers should study.

(Brill) “There are some things in the report that Vermont is not doing and other states are. And we might want to take a look at how successful those initiatives have been and see if we might want to propose them here.”

(Zind) The state currently required pharmaceutical companies to report the value and nature of any gifts given to Vermont health care providers. Drug companies are also required to provide physicians with comparative price information, so they can take a drug’s cost into account when making treatment decisions.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

Related link:
Pharmaceutical Pricing Report

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