Lots of blog coverage in recent months on one of the more pro-consumer aspects of the health care legislation, in which drug companies in the $200 billion-plus pharmaceutical industry will be required to publicly disclose gifts and payments to physicians. Has your doctor received drug company money?
Employers in all industries face the challenge of implementing changes in their employee benefit plans as a result of the sweeping health care reform program that became law in March (see “Examining the New Health Care Law”). But health care providers, pharmaceutical companies and medical device makers face even more change as a result of “sunshine” and “integrity” provisions of the new law.
Included in the massive legislation is the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which requires drug and device manufacturers to make annual federal disclosures of their financial relationships with, and in-kind contributions to, physicians and teaching hospitals. The reports will be available to the public via an online database. While some states already require such disclosures, the new law is the first federal transparency requirement for the health care industry.
“The sunshine provisions for the first time on a broad-based national basis would require the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and devices to report payments that they make to physicians,” says Laura Keidan Martin, a partner in the health care practice at Katten Muchin Rosenman. “It requires disclosure of every transfer of cash, in-kind consideration or stock. Every dinner a sales rep has with a doctor now will have to be reported. It’s very controversial because physicians feel it is an invasion of privacy, but the point is the public should know the relationships that their physicians have.”
And here’s one physician’s take on drug reps and the practice of pharma’s direct-to-consumer marketing, on Medicine in Plain Words:
Make no mistake, some patients are quite sick and need to take medicine, some need to take a lot of medicine in order to function at a level meaningful to them. But we all need to remember that TV commercials are not there to educate us, they are there to sell a product. In the case of this product (pills), the company needs a middle man (your doctor) to close the sale. Taking a daily pill is a big commitment and should not be taken lightly.