Pharma's Weary Negligence in Minnesota
A Minnesota law requiring drugmakers to report payments to medical practitioners is generating data that is incomplete, inconsistent and hard to search.
By JANET MOORE, Star Tribune
Every spring, they trickle in: reports from dozens of drug companies disclosing how much they paid Minnesota physicians in consulting fees the previous year.
This year is no different. Some 86 drug companies made hundreds of payments totaling $13 million to Minnesota practitioners -- defined as anyone who can prescribe drugs.
But if consumers want to review the records, they will have to be patient. The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy won't post them online for a few weeks. Even then, the most dogged researcher may be flummoxed by documents that are sprawling, hard to search and often vague.
And reformers who hoped that payment disclosure would curb inappropriate ties between companies and doctors may be disappointed. The records are sometimes incomplete and inconsistent. Doctors say they are often inaccurate. Enforcement for companies that don't comply has been nonexistent, even though the law allows a fine of up to $10,000 and revocation of a company's license to sell drugs in Minnesota.
"It's like looking for a needle in a haystack,'' said Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, a Washington, D.C., consumer organization that has used the files. "It's compliance in name only.''
The Pharmacy Board requests that companies submit the records on searchable spreadsheets. But several firms, including drug giant Eli Lilly, sent their information in file attachments that cannot be searched electronically.
It isn't too hard to figure out what is going to happen here. Senator Grassley is licking his chops...