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After Sun report on pharma money and a Colorado Medicaid board, senior state attorney tells board members to be more transparent

The talk comes after it was revealed that one board member, Dr. Alex Reish, received thousands of dollars in benefits from pharmaceutical companies without disclosing them.

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AURORA — Amid questions over the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on members of a state Medicaid board, a senior lawyer in the Colorado Attorney General’s office on Tuesday night admonished members of that board to disclose all potential conflicts of interest in order to protect the integrity of their work.

The reminder came after Colorado Medicaid officials discovered that one doctor on the state’s Drug Utilization Review Board had received more than $10,000 in benefits — mostly free food and drinks — from pharmaceutical companies whose products come before the board for review. As The Colorado Sun reported exclusively on Monday, the board member, Dr. Alex Reish, argued last year in favor of one drug without telling colleagues that he had received about $1,000 worth of food and drinks from that drug’s maker.

“The reason we’re here is to make sure we’re protecting the integrity of this process,” Corelle Spettigue, a senior assistant attorney general, told board members Tuesday.

“It doesn’t mean anyone is in trouble. It just means we need to disclose and discuss whether it rises to the level of a conflict.”

The Drug Utilization Review Board makes recommendations about criteria governing when lesser-used drugs can be prescribed — potentially bumping drugs up or down the ladder of treatment options. Colorado Medicaid officials make the final call on the criteria.

Reish told The Sun that pharmaceutical companies typically provided food and drinks to him and his staff during common educational sessions that helped him better care for his patients — something he didn’t believe created a conflict of interest.

During the meeting following Spettigue’s remarks Tuesday, Reish recused himself from two discussions. One was for a drug to treat migraines and for which Reish is on an advisory committee — the only time, he said, that he had received direct payment from a pharmaceutical company. The other was for a drug where its maker had bought meals for Reish and his staff.

“For simplicity sake, I’m happy to recuse myself,” he said.

This story first appeared in The Colorado Sun’s newsletter, The Sunriser. You can subscribe here: