US Government May Force Drug Firms to Report Money Paid to Doctors

When your doctor recommends a new drug or treatment for your diabetes, do you know if the doctor has received payment from the company that markets the drug or device? If the Obama administration has its way, you will. It is proposing a new law that will require drug companies to disclose payments made to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel, and entertainment-even something as minor as coffee and bagels delivered to a doctor’s office for a meeting.

According to the New York Times, doctors who take money from drug companies may be more inclined to prescribe drugs in risky and unapproved ways, such as prescribing drugs for “off label” use or prescribing powerful antipsychotic medicines for children. Consumer advocates and members of Congress who support the proposed ruling believe that patients will benefit by knowing if their doctor receives compensation from drug companies.

Under the new standards, if a company has even one product covered by Medicare or Medicaid, it will have to disclose all its payments to doctors other than its own employees. The federal government will then post the payment data on a publicly available Web site.

The Obama administration estimates that more than 1,100 drug, device, and medical supply companies will have to file such reports. Companies that do not fully comply will be subject to a penalty of up to $10,000 for each payment they fail to report. A company that knowingly fails to report payments will face a penalty of as much as $100,000 for each violation, up to a total of $1 million a year. The law also requires drug and device companies to report “any ownership or investment interest” held by doctors or their immediate family members, other than holdings of publicly traded stocks.

Of course, there is push-back, notably by the Advanced Medical Technology Association, which represents makers of medical devices. The association has indicated that such reporting may make doctors less willing to serve as consultants, which could “chill innovation.”

The law is currently open to comment by the public, after which the comments will be reviewed by Medicare.

Source: New York Times

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