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Feds Warn Of Drug Marketing Offenses

Oct 1, 2002 | AP

The government is proposing new guidelines that warn drug companies not to offer incentives to health care professions in return for promoting certain drugs.

Such incentives, the warning says, could be viewed as an illegal kickback and violate fraud and abuse laws.

The draft of the guidelines was posted Monday on a Department of Health and Human Services inspector general's Web site.

Janet Rehnquist, the department's inspector general, said in the draft that the agency is concerned that the drug companies' marketing practices could improperly inflate health care costs under the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Nearly 75 million elderly, disabled and poor people depend on those programs for health care assistance.

The inspector general's guidelines do not have the force of law. But manufacturers pay close attention to them, fearing that otherwise they might face increased scrutiny and investigations.

Rehnquist listed several examples of marketing practices where drug companies could be suspected of federal violations. Among them:

So-called "switching arrangements" where financial incentives are offered to physicians to get them to switch patients from one drug to another.

Excessive payments, beyond the value of services, to advisers and researchers who help conduct market research.

Payment to physicians and other health care workers of gifts such as entertainment, travel, scholarships and other gratuities for promoting certain drugs.

To determine what actions are proper, the agency recommended that drug manufacturers use a voluntary marketing code that the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America developed in April.

The trade group's code outlines practices that sales representatives may use when dealing with health care professionals.

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