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AG Cooper announces $9 million in grants to improve health care

Release date: 4/13/2006

UNC-CH, Wake Forest two of 22 programs nationwide to share in funding

Raleigh: Attorney General Roy Cooper announced today that grants of more than $9 million will go to programs including two in North Carolina to educate doctors and other health care providers about drug marketing and how to get unbiased information about drugs.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem are among 22 research institutions nationwide to receive the grants announced today, which are available as part of a major consumer protection settlement with drug maker Warner-Lambert that resolved allegations of deceptive marketing of the company’s blockbuster drug Neurontin©.

“We put a stop to this deceptive drug marketing and the money we won will educate health care professionals about how to get the real story on drug company claims,” said Cooper. “It’s important that North Carolina researchers share in these grants so that doctors get better information to give their patients better care.”

As part of the settlement with North Carolina and 49 other states, respected research and professional institutions nationwide will receive $9 million in grants. The grants will go to fund efforts to improve prescribing practices by helping physicians, nurses, pharmacists, medical students and others in health fields learn how to critically evaluate the pharmaceutical industry’s claims about its products.

UNC-CH will receive a grant of $386,120 to develop materials to educate pediatricians about safety concerns with the off-label use of pediatric drugs as part of its “PEDS: Pediatric Education for Drug Safety” program. Wake Forest University will receive $399,670 for its project, “Smart Prescribe,” to help health care professionals appraise data and claims about drugs.

“Thanks to the efforts of the N.C. Attorney General in obtaining this settlement, both consumers and health care providers will learn more about the marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies,” said Curt Furberg, M.D., Ph.D., professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “This program is vitally important because it works to solve one of the root problems of high drug costs in the United States.”

Pharmaceutical companies reportedly spend more than $12 billion per year in the U.S. marketing their products, more than the entire amount spent on medical education in the nation. In addition to funding programs to educate health care providers, the Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Grant Program will also fund programs to help educate consumers about drug marketing practices.

Cooper is a member of the Special Committee that awarded today’s grants along with California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, Florida Attorney General Charles J. Crist, New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, Ohio Attorney General Jim Petro, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers, Texas Attorney General Gregg Abbott and Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell.

Other organizations receiving grants today include: the American Medical Association, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Dartmouth College, Federation of State Medical Boards Education and Research Foundation, Georgetown University, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Hektoen Institute, Kaiser Health Plan of Colorado, Lovelace Clinic Foundation, Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professionals, Meyers Primary Care Institute, the National Center for Farmworker Health, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine, Oregon Health Policy and Research, Portland VA Research Foundation, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Arizona, University of California-San Francisco, University of Georgia School of Pharmacy, University of Kentucky, University of Vermont, and University of Washington.

The Attorneys General anticipate awarding a total of $20 million in grants through the program and will conduct additional grant solicitations in the future. Information regarding future grants will be posted on the website for the National Association for Attorneys General, www.naag.org .