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Act Now – Physician Payments Sunshine Act Could Pass

Filed under: Education, Guest Blog

My father always told me to be prepared to fight for what I believe in and I’ve subscribed to that theory throughout my life.

And while there are many causes and challenges to commit to, there’s one facing our industry that needs action from nearly every distributor and supplier:  the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2009. 

This act would require drug companies and medical device manufacturers to disclose the value of payments or gifts of ANY amount to physicians, including all advertising specialties.

While there is some consideration the House might provide an exemption for items under $5, this amount is still too low, and the Senate bill still does not exempt any promotional products of any value.  So, either way, we have to push to increase the exemption to $25, in order to save thousands of industy jobs.

Any drug or medical device company will be prevented from handing out promotional items at trade shows or in the office, because no one will want to take the time or painstaking effort to report the value of every single promotional item given (like pens, clipboards and mugs.) 

This bill has good intentions, however, it also has far reaching ramifications.  Since I’m obviously against bribing my doctor to give me medicine, I support the spirit of this bill.  But, the way it’s written will damage pharmaceutical promotional products sales for our industry, which will further impact the overall economy. 

In addition to the revenue lost by distributors who sell to these companies, suppliers will obviously lose revenue and overall declining sales could lead to even more industry job cuts. 

Doctors are constantly bombarded with messages and new information.  Frankly, I want my doctor to be able to keep a pen or portfolio that will remind him of a drug or device that may make a difference to my health.

I hope you recognize how significant this issue is to you and to the health of our overall industry – whether or not you sell promo products to the pharmaceutical market.

So what can you do?   Small things done by 100,000 of us can go a very long way and I’ve put together a few easy links for you to contact your representative.  Take a quick moment to send them your thoughts, using these links and the draft of my letter below, and be sure to pass this information to your sales and support staff. 

Please comment on this blog to indicate that you’ve sent a letter to your representative.  Together, we can make a difference.

Dale Denham is senior vice president at ASI.  Email him here.

To email your Senator:

1.  Click here and select the link after each of your Senators to contact them using the web form. 

2.  Insert your information and send your version of the letter below.

Draft of Letter:

Dear Senator [Last Name]:

I oppose S.301, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and ask that you strongly consider the potentially devastating effects on those of us in your constituency.   While the intentions of the bill are commendable, there are significant negative ramifications that may not be clear to the drafters of the bill.

I am not a manufacturer of drugs or medical devices, but I am in the promotional products industry and this bill will drive out hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and result in a significant loss of jobs.

Specifically, the proposed law does not establish a minimum dollar amount related to the “transfer of value,” which will cause manufacturers to stop providing promotional products.  Promotional products are very cost effective advertising items, not a “free trip” or other “gift” that has no advertising or educational value.

If you support this bill, I strongly urge you to allow tangible forms of advertising and education to be exempt from the bill, or at a minimum exclude those under a reasonable dollar value. 

With over 30,000 promotional products businesses across the United States, many of them entrepreneurial small- and medium-sized businesses that now help drive most of the business growth in this country, and the thousands of jobs potentially at stake in the 19 billion dollar industry if this act passes, it is a very important issue.

Thank you for your time.


[Your Name]


  1. Kate Petersen, Prescription Project Says:

    The Physician Payments Sunshine Act would not require disclosure of “every single promotional item,” but only of the value of gifts and payments from companies once they add up to $100. Items that benefit patients, such as free samples, are excluded. Even the PhRMA now calls on its members not to distribute branded “reminder” items.

    From the code: Prohibits distribution of non-educational items (such as pens, mugs and other “reminder” objects typically adorned with a company or product logo) to healthcare providers and their staff. The Code acknowledges that such items, even though of minimal value, “may foster misperceptions that company interactions with healthcare professionals are not based on informing them about medical and scientific issues.”


    The Sunshine Act will shed light on gifts that have nothing to do with getting doctors good, scientific evidence about drugs and devices; It will not deter legitimate and important research and consulting relationships. The industry itself has said so itself: Pens and mugs should be off the table.

    Friday June 12, 2009
  2. Jon Ratliff Says:

    Emailed MN senator Amy Klobachar your letter.

    Monday June 15, 2009
  3. Allan Clair Says:

    Well, my silly senator today wanted to be addressed as senator instead of ma’am but a US Army General. Do you think she’ll take note.

    Thursday June 18, 2009
  4. Dan Says:

    What role is ASI playing in making sure that our congress understands the potential impact? Are you working with a lobby firm or something of that nature?

    Thursday June 18, 2009
  5. Steve Weinstein (EMT asi/52263) Says:

    I sent email letters to Senators Bayh and Lugar today. Though I am not as familiar with the intricacies of the issue as Kate Petersen, I am against restrictions on free trade.

    Thursday June 18, 2009
  6. Howard Scheff Says:

    I sent letters to Senators Reid & Ensign of Nevada,I support you in your efforts in this issue.

    Friday June 19, 2009
  7. Dale Denham Says:


    Thanks for your post and for your time on the phone this week. As we talked about, and to let other readers know, the bill as it stands today will require people to track every gift – from the very first dollar – in order to know when they reach the $100 mark and have to start reporting. This will make it nearly impossible to hand out items at trade shows or anywhere else they might be giving something to a doctor.

    While we are happy that the sponsors of this bill recognize the effectiveness of promotional products, we hope that they will look deeper at the ramifications of the bill and recognize the jobs lost – as well as the unfair targeting of a specific industry that employs hundreds of thousands of Americans.


    Friday June 19, 2009
  8. Theda Collier Says:

    I sent letters to Senator Cornyn and Hutchison of Texas today. I have worked in Procurement functions for many years and guarantee that a pen or mug has never made me select one company over another.

    Tuesday July 7, 2009
  9. Don Asarnow Says:

    I sent emails to Senators Lautenberg and Menendez of New Jersey today. I asked them to consider the major negative fallout for the promotional products industry and our hundred’s of thousands of employees if this bill is paswsed as-is. This bill is a serious instance of overkill in the effort to ensure medical personnel are not bought or improperly influenced by their suppliers. In my 40+ years in sales prior to starting my promotions distributorship five years ago, I used promotional products as inexpensive but effective advertising. Never once in these 40+ years did a client consider themself “bought” for the price of a mug or pen. We had a maximum value of $25.00 for any promotional product given out. Any client or prospect would have been insulted and unlikely to buy if they in any way considered that they were being bought for the price of a promotional item.

    Wednesday July 8, 2009
  10. Victoria Cetera Says:

    I wrote to Senator Menendez of N.J. stating the negative fallout of jobs if this bill is passed.

    Thursday August 20, 2009

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