Are Doctors Giving Patients the Best Vaccines, or the Vaccines With the Best Price?
Washington, D.C. - 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.”