The California Senate passed a bill Thursday that would ban drug companies from giving gifts to doctors.
Sen. Mike McGuire said his bill prohibiting perks such as airline tickets and lavish meals would lower drug costs in part because doctors who receive such gifts are more likely to prescribe expensive drugs.
The Senate voted 23-13 to send the bill to the Assembly.
Drug companies spend more than $1.4 billion a year on gifts to California doctors, said McGuire, a Democrat who represents a district west of Sacramento.
"While we have witnessed the cost of drugs rise over the past decade, industry profits have also grown significantly," McGuire said. "We should be all standing for seniors and taxpayers to drive down the cost of prescription drugs."
The bill is modeled on a Vermont law enacted in 2009 that bans drug companies from giving perks to doctors.
Sen. Ed Hernandez, an optometrist, said the bill is a simple measure that will curb drug costs.
"As a provider myself, I have no problem not accepting any gifts from any pharmaceutical company that comes trying peddle their drugs in my office," the Los Angeles-area Democrat said.
Several Republicans spoke against the bill, saying drug companies need to market their products to be successful and ensure new treatments reach patients.
"Successful products provide the funding for the research, for cures," said Sen. Ted Gaines, a Republican who represents a district near Sacramento. "Why would we do anything to diminish the ability of pharma companies to be successful in providing these new products?"
Senate minority leader Patricia Bates said gifts from pharmaceutical companies to doctors are already regulated.
The Southern California Republican said the bill, which is opposed by the pharmaceutical industry's main lobbying group, could deter doctors from participating in clinical trials and limit Californians' access to experimental drugs.
The bill allows doctors to be paid salaries for running clinical trials. Under the bill, pharmaceutical companies can also pay for meals for doctors as long as the costs are below $250 per year for an individual doctor.