Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday proposed a new rule capping payments from pharmaceutical companies to doctors who prescribe painkillers and prohibiting them from accepting gifts and other services, an effort by the governor to cut down on the use of powerful opioid medications that are often tied to later drug addiction and heroin use.
“While the vast majority of doctors care for their patients honorably and professionally, their education about many of the drugs they are prescribing comes too often from pharmaceutical sales people, who may not always provide an objective analysis of the human and social impacts the drugs may have,” said Christie in a statement. “This rule will help us address any concerns about whether treatment decisions of prescribers are being improperly influenced.”
According to estimates from the governor’s office, doctors in New Jersey collected $69 million from drug companies in 2016. Two-thirds of that went to 300 physicians, 39 of which received upwards of $200,000 each from the companies, the governor’s office said.
If Christie’s proposed regulation is adopted by the Division of Consumer Affairs, doctors performing “bona fide” services for a pharmaceutical company would be able to receive no more than $10,000 a year in compensation. Fees for speaking at continuing education events would be exempted.
The new regulations also would delineate what kinds of services — such as speaking at promotional events and consulting arrangements — doctors could perform for drug companies. All such agreements and payments would have to be in writing, Christie’s office said.
Christie has made fighting the deadly opioid addiction crisis a priority in his year in office. He is the chair of President Trump’s national commission on opioids and says Trump should declare a national emergency.
Prohibited items for doctors under the new rule include “cash, gift cards, entertainment and recreational items; items for prescriber’s personal use; payments supporting non-faculty attendance at promotional activities; and continuing education events.” It also sets standards for services including speaking arrangements.
A hearing on the proposed new rule will be held Oct. 19 in the Monmouth Room at the Division of Consumer Affairs in Newark.