This article originally provided by The Charleston Gazette

July 21, 2006


Don't conceal it

LOBBYISTS are required to disclose gifts and treats they lavish on legislators in attempts to sway their votes. The same openness should be expected of drug sales agents who shower money and goodies on physicians, trying to persuade the doctors to prescribe their brands.

The state’s Pharmaceutical Cost Management Council originally proposed rules ordering drug agents to identify any doctor given more than $10,000 worth of “gifts, grants or payments” per year. But two large physician societies protested, not wanting public embarrassment of doctors who take freebies.

Council members allied with the Manchin administration crawfished, allowing such physicians to remain concealed. State Pharmaceutical Advocate Shana Phares said the retreat was necessary because law didn’t empower the council to force such disclosures. However, an opinion by Attorney General Darrell McGraw contradicted her, saying the council has plenty of legal authority.

Phares should remember that she’s an advocate for patients who must buy costly prescriptions — not an advocate for drug-sellers or doctors.

Now the council is scheduled to meet July 28 for a final vote on this issue. We hope it supports the right of West Virginians to know which doctors accept lucrative gifts.

As we’ve said before, the disclosure process should distinguish between physicians who merely accept sample drugs to give to poor patients, and others who take posh trips, expensive gifts and other payola from drug agents. Such important information shouldn’t be hidden from the public.


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Citizens for Clean Elections P.O. Box 6753 Huntington, WV 25773-6753 304-522-0246