The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Peter Bjork, 202.408.5565

Are Doctors Giving Patients the Best Vaccines or the Vaccines with the Best Price?


Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asking for an
antitrust investigation into drug companies that offer significant
discounts to doctors for providing patients with only that company's
vaccines. CREW sent its letter after learning that Sanofi
Pasteur and Merck require physician healthcare groups purchasing their
vaccines to enter into contracts prohibiting them from purchasing
vaccines made by other companies.

CREW Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, "Patients presume that
doctors choose vaccines based on the patient's best interests. Now we
learn that's not always true. In some cases, doctors are choosing
vaccines based on the discounts offered by the drug manufacturer."

To entice physician healthcare groups to purchase their vaccines,
Sanofi Pasteur and Merck offer significant price discounts if the
healthcare groups agree to buy all of their vaccines solely from one
manufacturer. The discounts are conditioned on an express agreement
that the healthcare groups will use only the offering drug company's
vaccines as well as other products. If any member of the practice fails
to comply with this exclusivity requirement, the entire practice loses
the discounts.

As a result of these restrictive contracts, physicians are barred
from offering patients alternative vaccines even when they are
demonstrably more effective and their use would be in the patients' best
interests. For example, Sanofi Pasteur, which markets the meningitis
vaccine Menactra, bars doctors from offering Novartis's vaccine, Menveo,
even though some studies indicate Menveo may offer greater protection
to teenagers.

CREW argues these contracts suppress competition, prevent new and
potentially more effective vaccines from entering the market, and stifle
innovation in an industry that receives generous federal funding. They
also deprive consumers of the best healthcare.

Sloan continued, "No one should have to question their physicians'
motives, 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."

to read CREW's letter to the FTC.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials -- regardless of party affiliation -- who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach.