Nonprofit Newswire | Take Three Regulators and Call Us in the Morning

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March 1, 2010; San Francisco Chronicle | Three California officials responsible for prescription-drug spending  for low-income patients are under fire for letting nonprofit groups that receive money from pharmaceutical companies that do business with the state pay their travel to drug industry conventions and conferences. The three officials are employees of Medi-Cal, a division of the California Department of Health Care Services. Their travel was paid for by the American Medicaid Pharmacy Administrators Association and its western, southern and eastern chapters, which raise money by charging registration fees up to $2,000 per person to drug company representatives and other executives who do business with Medicaid programs. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Medi-Cal prohibits employees from accepting gifts that exceed $320 from any firm, subsidiary or person that “has financial dealings with the department.” Among the group that accepted free travel, Pilar Williams, the pharmacy division chief at the Department of Health Care Services, has a direct role in negotiating rebates with drug makers, according to the newspaper. In that capacity, she helped decide which of the $8.5 billion worth of medications the state dispensed to low-income patients in the past three years. David Egilman, a professor at Brown University, an expert on marketing practices of drug makers, said that “It’s unethical to take money from someone you’re buying services (from) and negotiating with.”—Bruce Trachtenberg