A Ray of Sunshine on Drug Company Payments to Doctors Print Share

The public is a step closer to learning just how much money and travel expenses drug company and medical device makers give to doctors.
A federal agency finally put out proposed guidance for the companies that will have to disclose the payments under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which I co-authored and saw through to enactment last year.
If implemented as designed, the sunshine law will require a drug company to disclose whether it pays a doctor to attend a conference in Hawaii.  A medical device maker will have to list whether it keeps a doctor on paid retainer for medical advice.  Fees paid for consulting, speeches, or expert advice will be reported. 
Every member of the public will have access to the information.  The transparency of these financial relationships is appropriate so that patients and their own doctors can be informed and because taxpayers pay billions of dollars every year for prescription drugs and medical devices under Medicaid and Medicare.  
The federal agency missed an Oct. 1 deadline for putting out the Sunshine Act guidance.  As the bill sponsors, Sen. Herb Kohl and I were displeased about the missed deadline.  We pressed the agency to explain the delay and encouraged it to move forward.  The day before an agency witness was supposed to testify on the issue at a Senate hearing, the agency issued the guidance.  Congressional oversight of the executive branch of government is part of the job.  Congress has a responsibility not just to make laws but also to see that they’re carried out as intended.
Monday, Dec. 19, 2011