Rocky Mountain High-Five

  • by: |
  • 04/19/2006

Here’s an editorial from the Rocky Mountain News. That fresh mountain air certainly produces some clear-headed thinking.

Don’t target ads in drug-buying bill
Bill has one good idea, and one very bad one

Is Senate Bill 1 right for Colorado? If it did nothing more than let the state join a purchasing pool that cuts Medicaid drug spending, we would be inclined to say yes.

But to again paraphrase the TV ads, SB 1 has some serious side effects. The most dangerous is an onerous disclosure provision that would force drug companies to spend money defending their advertising budgets rather than, say, producing life-saving treatments.

If the disclosure requirement remains in SB 1, which is scheduled for a Senate vote today, we urge Gov. Bill Owens to veto the bill should it ever reach his desk.

That would be an unfortunate necessity if proponents of SB 1 are right: They say the state could save $20 million of $170 million it is spending on Medicaid drugs this year.

That may be an exaggeration. State health officials suggest the savings would be more like $3 million to $4 million. Still, that’s real money.

Under the bill, the state department of health policy would join a purchasing pool with other states to buy drugs for Medicaid recipients. People who earn too much to get Medicaid (up to $50,000 for a four-person household) but do not have medical insurance or whose policies do not pay for prescriptions could join the pool for $25 a year and purchase drugs at the discounted rate.

We supported a somewhat similar bill last year that Owens vetoed. We oppose SB 1, however, because of its inexplicable disclosure requirements, which could have been written by Ralph Nader. Asserting that advertising and lobbying leads to “an inordinate and unnecessary escalation of the cost of prescription drugs to consumers,” the bill would force every pharmaceutical company to detail its marketing budget to the state.

Every year, each drug maker would have to list promotions directed toward “any physician, medical student, hospital, nursing home, pharmacist, health benefit plan,” etc. We’re guessing that would include an accounting for the pens pharmaceutical reps hand out to receptionists.

They would also have to report all gifts worth more than $50, and naturally, how much they spend on lobbying, and who got the money.

Why? The Naderite left has long claimed that recent advances in medical science are mainly an illusion. Instead, drug companies largely repackage similar formulations and use promotional gimmicks to hoodwink doctors into prescribing new medications their patients don’t need.

Tell that to the arthritis patient who lives a relatively normal life because she can take Celebrex rather than megadoses of aspirin, or the diabetes sufferer who can test his own blood sugar with a pocket monitor.
It’s the business of shareholders and corporate boards to decide how much money a company spends on promotion and marketing. Lawmakers and bureaucrats should butt out.

Besides, if drug makers were forced to satisfy elaborate disclosure mandates, that would divert their focus from healing people — which is why, in its current form, SB 1 offers the wrong diagnosis.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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