And the hearing comes on the same day that the NY Times reports that psychiatrists have earned the most money from drug makers than doctors in other specialties. The Times looked at data from both Minnesota and Vermont, states with gift disclosure laws.

How can this affect prescribing decisions? Well, the Times looked at antipsychotics and found that the more psychiatrists (in both states) have earned from drug makers, the more they have prescribed atypical antipsychotics to children (risky and mostly unapproved, says the article)

From Congressional Quarterly:

Although the hearing by the Senate Aging Committee examined a wide array of drug industry practices that witnesses described as influence buying, the panel’s chairman, Democrat Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, stuck largely to the idea of creating a national registry requiring disclosure of gifts and payments as his policy prescription for problems raised at the hearing. But officials with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) defended their voluntary guidelines on paying and accepting gifts, saying they have lessened abuses since the guidelines were adopted in 2002.

“It has been estimated that the drug industry spends $19 billion annually on marketing to physicians in the form of gifts, lunches, drug samples, and sponsorship of education programs,” Kohl said in his opening statement. “These gifts and payments can compromise physicians’ medical judgment by putting their financial interest ahead of the welfare of their patients.”

Senator Grassley also mentioned that he may be interested in filing legislation that would set up a federal public registry, listing gift disclosures, so patients would be able to see if their doctor has accepted any gifts. But drug companies are already having some trouble going along with the laws in VT and MN.

Some companies never responded to the board’s requests for disclosures. Others did so fitfully. A few sent letters saying they did not collect that information and thus could not provide it.

Minnesota officials never cracked down. Such reports were put in file drawers and largely forgotten until this past year, said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. Mr. Wiberg said he planned this year to pursue companies that fail to report.

Other states including here in NY, have been trying to pass similiar laws. The drug industry worked hard to kill it and sadly, the NY State Senate did not even debate the bill.