Minnesota AMA reps to present drug price regulation resolutions

by Sam Kean

At the annual American Medical Association meeting in Chicago this week, the Minnesota delegation will present resolutions attempting to regulate the price of pharmaceutical drugs.

In recent months, drug companies have been criticized for pricing needed drugs beyond the means of people in developing nations. But Minnesota Medical Association president Blanton Bessinger noted struggles in Minnesota as well.

“The cost of pharmaceutical drugs is placing them beyond the reach of some of our patients,” Bessinger stated in a press release. “This is a serious problem that must be solved at the national level.”

The following resolutions focus on capping drug costs and regulating the promotional strategies of pharmaceutical companies:

ï Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Gift Limitations

Would limit the gifts drug companies can offer physicians.

ï State Actions to Control Pharmaceutical Costs

Would investigate using large-group coalitions to purchase drugs in bulk as a means to control costs.

ï Pharmaceutical Company Discount and Rebate Arrangements

Would study the effects of drug companies offering cheaper prices to insurers in exchange for favored status on drug brands.

ï Cost of Drug Disclosure during Direct Advertising

Would call on drug companies to suggest retail prices during consumer marketing.

ï Physicians’ Use of Drug Samples

Would study the effects of physicians dispensing drug samples on both pharmaceutical costs and patient care.

The University’s connection

Of six primary MMA delegates to the AMA, three are University professors or instructors. Seventy-five percent of all Minnesota physicians are MMA members, including Medical School Dean Alfred Michael and Academic Health Center Vice President Frank Cerra.

Physicians across the nation are addressing concerns about drug companies having too much influence on which drugs are recommended to patients, said Mark Paller, University assistant vice president for research.

Information from company representatives promoting drugs ranges from sound and scientific to a “memorized sales pitch,” said Paller. The resolutions attempt to outline what is appropriate.

Drug companies point to the risk of developing drugs as the reason for high prices. Most potential drugs never make it to market, and those that do are expensive to develop.

Furthermore, because most citizens in developing countries cannot afford drugs, companies must rely on markets in the United States and Europe to recover operating costs.

Sam Kean encourages comments at [email protected]