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Drug Companies Agree to Voluntary Ban on Doctor 'Freebies'
The pharmaceutical industry has agreed to a voluntary moratorium on giving doctors branded items that advertise some of the country's most prescribed drugs, The New York Times reported.
Starting Jan. 1, doctors will see supplies of trinkets such as Viagra pens, Zoloft soap dispensers and Lipitor mugs cut off in a move that proponents of the moratorium say is a step toward eliminating influencing doctors' prescribing habits. But skeptics say the move is only a superficial measure, doing little to curb the far larger amounts of money that big drug companies spend to try to influence physicians.
About 40 drug makers, including Eli Lilly & Company, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer have signed on to the code, the Times reported.
Drawn up by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the new code bars companies from giving doctors branded pens, staplers, flash drives, paperweights, calculators and the like, the Times said. The new guidelines reiterate the group's 2002 code, which prohibited firms from giving physicians expensive gifts such as tickets to sporting events or resort stays, and asked drug companies that finance medical courses, conferences or scholarships to let independent experts choose study materials and scholarship recipients.
In a statement, Diane Bieri, executive vice president of the manufacturers' group, said the updated guidelines were not an admission that gifts could influence doctors, but were meant to emphasize the educational nature of the industry-doctor relationship, the newspaper said.
According to the Times, big firms last year gave away almost $16 billion in free drug samples to doctors and spent an estimated $6 billion more on sales visits and other promotions.
Firm Says FDA Approves Its Generic Version of Nicotine Gum
Watson Pharmaceuticals Inc. said Wednesday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved its generic version of the nicotine gum Nicorette, and it will begin selling the mint-flavored gum in early January.
The FDA approved the firm's over-the-counter nicotine polacrilex gum in 2 milligram and 4 milligram strengths. Nicorette, made by British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline PLC, is sold by Johnson & Johnson Healthcare. The agency approved Nicorette gum, available in six flavors, in February 1996, the Associated Press reported.
Watson said the market for over-the-counter nicotine gum was more than $300 million in the year ended September 2008. Perrigo Co. also makes a generic version of fruit-flavored Nicorette, AP said.
Smoking Ban Cut City's Heart Attack Hospital Admissions
A comprehensive municipal smoking ban in effect in Pueblo, Colo., cut that city's heart attack hospital admissions rate by 41 percent over a three-year period, according to a study released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.