By Mike Lillis - 07/06/10 07:28 PM EDT
A government watchdog group is urging federal anti-trust regulators to investigate drug companies that offer rebates to doctors who use only those companies' vaccines.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is claiming that such exclusivity agreements threaten competition, innovation and patient care.
“As a result of these restrictive contracts,” CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan wrote Tuesday to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “physicians are barred from purchasing alternative vaccines even when they are demonstrably more effective and their use would be in the patients’ best interest.”
CREW is pointing to a series of contracts cut between Sanofi Pasteur, Merck and physician group practices, under which the doctors were required to use those companies’ vaccines or risk losing their rebates.
“Please know that by your participation in the Merck/Sanofi vaccine contract, you cannot also participate in a [GlaxoSmithKline] or Novartis contract,” reads a memo to doctors from an administrator at one of the group practices.
As a result of such agreements, CREW says, doctors are discouraged from using vaccines that might be more effective for certain patients.
“No one should have to question their physicians’ motives,” Sloan wrote to Richard Feinstein, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, “but the practices of companies like Sanofi Pasteur and Merck suggest we should all be questioning our doctors closely about why they chose a particular vaccine.”