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April 13, 2006
UW Awarded $400,000 to Educate Doctors about Drug Marketing

McKenna, Attorneys General Nationwide Announce $9 Million in Grants from Neurontin Settlement

SEATTLE – The University of Washington was awarded nearly $400,000 to educate health care providers about the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on how drugs are prescribed, Attorney General Rob McKenna announced today.

The UW is one of 24 grantees nationwide recently selected to receive a total of $9 million funded by a settlement between attorneys general and the makers of the epilepsy drug Neurontin.

McKenna congratulated Dr. Linda Pinsky and praised the university’s efforts to develop a program that helps doctors and pharmacists better understand how marketing by drug industries influences prescription choices. Pinsky, attending physician at the UW Medical Center and Women’s Health Clinic, submitted the project, “Drug Reps in the Attic,” for a grant.

“Pharmaceutical companies spend more than $12 billion per year marketing their products in the U.S.,” McKenna said. “That’s more than is spent on all medical education in this nation as a whole. Combined, programs funded by the attorney general grants will help consumers better distinguish between promotional messages and education messages.

“We’re confident that Dr. Pinsky and her team at the University of Washington will develop a project that ultimately results in better and more cost-effective health care in our state and around the nation,” McKenna said.

The UW project will include curriculum related to bias in industry-sponsored education, promotion of free medication samples, and the relationship between consumer advertising and patient medication requests.

“Providers may recognize bias in the information they receive from industry representatives but consider themselves immune to its influence,” Dr. Pinsky said. “But the CEOs of these businesses are neither philanthropists nor stupid. The pharmaceutical industry conducted outcome studies on their advertising campaigns long before they did on their medications.”

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office led part of a multi-state investigation concerning illegal drug marketing that resulted in a $430 million multi-state settlement with Neurontin manufacturer Warner-Lambert, now a division of Pfizer. A portion of the 2004 settlement was earmarked for campaigns to help physicians, pharmacists and consumers access fair and balanced information about prescription drugs.

The Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Grant program announced the first grant recipients today. The money will fund projects that teach medical providers about how pharmaceutical companies market their products and provide strategies for accessing unbiased sources for information about drugs.

Grant recipients include:

  • American Medical Association
  • Brigham and Women’s Hospital
  • Dartmouth College
  • Federation of State Medical Boards Education and Research Foundation
  • Georgetown University
  • Harvard Pilgrim Health Care
  • Hektoen Institute
  • Kaiser Health Plan of Colorado
  • Lovelace Clinic Foundation
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professionals
  • Meyers Primary Care Institute
  • National Center for Farmworker Health
  • Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine
  • Oregon Health Policy and Research
  • Portland VA Research Foundation
  • University of Alabama-Birmingham
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California-San Francisco
  • University of Georgia School of Pharmacy
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Washington
  • Wake Forest University

Additional grants will be provided for consumer education. In all, the Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Grant program anticipates providing more than $20 million in grants. The program is administered by the Center of Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health and Science University. Grant recipients are chosen by a multi-state committee.

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Contact: Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, (206) 464-6432


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