As Vermont Goes, So Goes the Nation? New Law Limits Data Mining, Charges Big Pharma for “Generics Education” and Free Generic Sa

If Big Pharma needed another "wakeup call" about U.S. public opinion trends and where they inevitably lead, it should look at Vermont.  That state just passed S. 115, a law that will limit drug marketing at its source, by limiting collection of physician prescription data, the lifeblood of many pharma marketing campaigns.  (A broader law drafted in similar spirit was ruled unconstitutional in New Hampshire this past April, but other states plan to introduce legislation on a similar theme, among them: Arizona, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Nevada, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington; for more on this, click here for an excellent May article by Christopher Lee in the Washington Post). The National Physicians Alliance would like to see limits on use of prescription data. For the group's short video clip, "Big Pharma is Watching You," click here. The law will also increase transparency into pharmacy benefits managers' drug pricing structures.  So far, so good. But one provision of the Vermont law struck me as a bit odd:  name-brand drug companies will be charged a small fee, which will be used, not only to educate physicians about the potential benefits of prescribing generic drugs but to distribute vouchers that would allow doctors to receive free samples of generic medications.  The bill provides for a half-million-dollar budget for "generics outreach efforts" and Vermont's Area Health Education Centers program will oversee distribution of generics samples to physicians' offices. "We heard over and over again that samples were a powerful tool. "We said 'if we can't beat 'em, join 'em' ", said State Representative and EMS doctor Harry Chen, quoted in this update from The Rutland Herald. I like the idea of generics receiving "equal time" with physicians and patients, and generics freebies competing with the slick name brand samples, but should the government be so directly involved in distributing or promoting any product? What do you think?