August 1, 2008
IMS V. SORRELL
FEDERAL COURT, BRATTLEBORO
August 1 was the final day of the trial. I did not stay for closing arguments but here are some bits and pieces.
There was testimony from Dr. Kesselheim, a lawyer and MD who practices in Boston and also does work on drug policy research and prescription drug practices and development. He provided a statement of support to the Vermont legislature for Act 80 because he said it would, “positively impact patient health and safety.” He went on to say that, “It is a good law that will improve patient safety and lower costs. This law will prevent overuse and inappropriate use of prescription drugs.
Kesselheim got into the alternative practice of academic detailing whereby academic medical centers train people to educate doctors about drugs rather than drug company sales reps. His institution has a pilot academic detailing project ongoing in Pennsylvania.
Kesselheim gave an example of the cost of overprescribing using the example of hydrochlorothiazide(HCTZ) in the 1990’s. HCTZ is an effective, generic first line treatment for high blood pressure but drug companies pushed the use of more expensive calcium channel blockers. He noted that this, “led to billions of dollars in excess cost to government programs and increased the cost of co-pays to people in government supported programs.”
Attorney Weiner for PhRMA began his closing argument with a predictable defense saying, “The State of Vermont has directly infringed on the free speech of PhRMA members and that there is no compelling state interest.” In a statement that could cut both ways he said, “Center stage is the doctor/patient relationship.”
Judge Murtha will deliberate and it could take 4-6 weeks before a decision is rendered.