For the past several years, the practice of drug companies making payments to members of the medical community has been under fire. Finally, after intense pressure from consumer groups, Congress finally responded and passed legislation designed to correct this situation. Four major companies have now made voluntary disclosures about payments to doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals. The last to do so was Pfizer. All of this came about because of pressure for more openness about the questionable practice which is widespread in the industry. Many believe these payments can influence doctors’ decisions about drugs and other treatments. In some cases, doctors who are being compensated by the drug industry can also influence the FDA in its decision-making on drug approvals.
Drug makers will be required under the new health overhaul law passed by Congress to make these disclosures in 2013 for payments made in 2012. Beginning in 2012, drug and medical device companies will be required to disclose payments to doctors of more than $10, with the first report to be available in 2013. The Physician Payment Sunshine Act was passed as part of health care reform. In addition to the federal law, a few states also have their own disclosure laws.
I believe this type information is the sort that should be made available to the public. Perhaps the disclosures will help avoid conflicts of interest and may also actually improve healthcare overall. For example, I am convinced lots of doctors prescribe more drugs to their patients than are actually needed for good patient care. The advertising of drugs by the drug manufacturers contributes to that problem. Hopefully, the required disclosures, at the very least, are a step in the right direction.
Source: Forbes, New York Times and Associated Press
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