* Pfizer requires doctors to scan ID for free coffee
* Names posted on company website
* Oncologists from Minnesota, Vermont warned of risk
* Some give free lattes only to international doctors
(Adds Pfizer comment, paragraphs 6-7)
By Deena Beasley
CHICAGO, June 7 New limits on free gifts to
doctors have hit the ubiquitous free lattes and coffee seen at
major medical meetings like the one here of the American
Society of Clinical Oncology.
The conference exhibit floor still features massive
information booths from cancer drugmakers like Roche Holding AG
ROG.VX, Bristol-Myers Squibb Co (BMY.N) and Amgen Inc
(AMGN.O) -- though the days of shopping bags laden with pricey
goodies are long gone.
Many drugmakers still offer coffee or candy with no strings
attached, but Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) requires doctors to swipe
their registration cards and warns that physicians from
Minnesota and Vermont are prohibited from imbibing.
"This is getting to the point of absurdity ... Is this the
way we are going to solve the issue of healthcare in this
country?" said Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer at
the American Cancer Society.
Pfizer, which agreed last year to a $2.3 billion fine in a
drug marketing case, also warns in a sign in front of the
coffee machine that it may provide the names of coffee-drinking
doctors to regulators. In March, Pfizer disclosed that it had
paid $35 million to some 4,500 doctors and researchers for the
last six months of 2009 for such services as speaking fees and
work on clinical trials.
The company is "committed to the principle of
transparency," Pfizer spokesman Curtis Allen said in an emailed
"Any gift, even a cup of coffee, is posted on our Pfizer
website for disclosure purposes and to provide complete
clarity," he said.
A couple of years ago, the exhibit floor would have been
clogged with cancer specialists picking up personalized pens,
novelty toys, or framed photographs with people dressed up as
major body organs.
But as healthcare costs rise, concern has grown about
undisclosed financial ties between doctors and drugmakers.
Early last year, many companies said they would stop giving
out small gifts such as pens and flash drives as part of new
voluntary guidelines from the Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufacturers of America.
The trade group in 2002 banned more costly gifts like trips
to resorts, and called for companies that pay for medical
education at conferences to leave the content to outside
Exhibit booths at ASCO also have to strictly separate
medical information given out to international doctors from
materials given to their U.S. peers, under guidelines set by
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sometimes, this can also
mean coffee only for doctors with foreign ID badges.
"I'm policing," said a woman manning a podium in front of
one international drugmaker's espresso machine.
She was not authorized to speak on the record but said the
FDA is very serious about testing that its regulations are
"We had FDA people trying to sneak in yesterday. I had to
stop them," the exhibit monitor said.
(Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Steve Orlofsky)