Minnesota Law Sheds More Light on Drug Companies
August 24, 2007
A Minnesota disclosure law has revealed that drug companies are devoting large sums of money to many members of state advisory panels who make decisions on which drugs will be used in Medicaid programs.
The Minnesota Medicaid Drug Formulary Committee is considering a conflict-of-interest policy that requires panel members to disclose such financial relationships and refrain from voting on drugs that may pose a conflict of interest.
Without such disclosure laws -- which exist only in three states, Minnesota, Vermont, and Maine -- there’s no way to know whether financial ties between the drug industry and state advisers exist.
Upon examining records in Minnesota, the Associated Press found the eight-member state panel did include some ties to the industry. Namely:
- John E. Simon, a Minneapolis psychiatrist, earned $354,700 from companies including Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca from 2004 to 2006 in honoraria, speaker‘s and consulting fees, plus other payments ranging from $500 to $93,012.
Both men, and the committee chairman, maintain that the payments did not influence their committee decisions.
- Robert Straka, a University of Minnesota pharmacy professor, earned $78,100 in honoraria and other fees from 2000 to 2006.
Still, medical ethicists say that state drug advisers should not receive money from drug companies because of their power over poor, disabled patients in the Medicaid system.
The Minnesota Medicaid Drug Formulary Committee’s recommendations to the state are usually followed. In 2006, they led $240 million in spending on drugs for 202,000 patients.
Minnesota state officials are planning to examine the Committee’s past actions for any potential bias, and will screen advisory council members for ties to the drug industry. They will also be requiring the Committee to record how each member of the panel votes.
Washington Post August 21, 2007