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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - July 31, 2008)

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By Mr. KOHL (for himself, Mr. Durbin, Mr. Kennedy, and Mr. Casey):

S. 3396. A bill to amend the Public Health Service Act to provide grants or contracts for prescription drug education and outreach for healthcare providers and their parents; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. KOHL. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Independent Drug Education and Outreach Act. Over the past year, the Committee on Aging has been taking a close look at the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and our Nation's physicians. Not only does the interaction between these two parties seem to be fraught with conflicts of interest, but it is likely that the marketing methods employed by drug companies--and the manner in which they educate doctors about their products--have an impact on the rising costs of prescription drugs in America.

When it comes to knowing what treatment options are available to doctors, pharmaceutical sales reps are currently one of the most common ways physicians learn about the latest drugs on the market. However, these sales reps often seem to confuse educating with selling, and evidence shows that doctors' prescribing patterns can be heavily influenced by the sometimes biased information handed out by these sales representatives.

The Independent Drug Education and Outreach Act offers an alternative method of providing information to doctors. It's called academic detailing, and we believe it can have a positive impact on both quality and cost of healthcare nationwide. Academic detailing provides physicians and other prescribers with an objective source of unbiased information on all prescription drugs, based on scientific research certified by HHS. The information is presented to doctors in their own offices by trained clinicians and pharmacists. Academic detailing ensures that physicians have access to the most comprehensive data available on drug safety of the full array of pharmaceutical treatment options, including low-cost generic alternatives.

The proposed legislation would provide two sets of grants. The first grant program would create educational materials for doctors on the safety, efficacy, and cost of prescription drugs, including generic drugs and over-the-counter alternatives. A second set of up to ten grants would be used to dispatch trained medical staff--such as pharmacists, nurses, and other health care professionals--into physicians' offices to distribute and discuss the independent information. To ensure their neutrality, all grant recipients would be prohibited from receiving financial support from drug manufacturers.

When doctors are better informed about the full range of drugs available on the market, they are more likely to prescribe the most effective treatment, as opposed to the latest brand-name blockbuster drug. The result is also lower health care costs. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine projected that for every dollar spent on academic detailing, two dollars can be saved in drug costs, due in part to the increased use of generic drugs. In this way, a Federal academic detailing program will likely pay for itself, while saving the government, consumers, and employers a considerable amount of money.

I would like to thank my cosponsors in the Senate, Majority Whip DICK DURBIN, HELP Committee Chairman TED KENNEDY, and Senator BOB CASEY. I would also like to thank Representatives HENRY WAXMAN and FRANK PALLONE, who are introducing a companion bill today in the House. We stand together with the goal of providing doctors with unbiased information on prescription drugs, and ensuring Americans receive the quality health care they deserve.

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