Sen. Chuck Grassley co-authored the Physician Payments Sunshine Act creating the Open Payments database for drug and device company payments to doctors. Grassley worked on the measure after his oversight and news stories explored payments from the industry to doctors. The Sunshine Act is successful. In program year 2015, health care industry manufacturers reported $7.52 billion in payments and ownership and investment interests to physicians and teaching hospitals. This amount consists of 11.90 million total records attributable to 618,931 physicians and 1,116 teaching hospitals. In October 2015, Grassley authored and introduced new bipartisan legislation to apply the disclosure of drug company and medical device maker payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The proposed 21st Century CURES Act from the House of Representatives includes language that would remove the reporting requirement for Continuing Medical Education and medical journal reprints and textbooks. It also would add an additional exemption for physicians who receive indirect payments for speaking fees. A New York Times magazine article, “Dr. Drug Rep,” Nov. 25, 2007, explores the potential effects of such payments.
Grassley made the following comment on the House bill striking part of the Sunshine Act.
“I plan to object to unanimous consent to take up the House bill in the Senate unless this provision is removed. The Sunshine Act brings transparency to a big part of the health care system for public benefit. Transparency brings accountability wherever it’s applied. With taxpayers and patients paying billions of dollars for prescription drugs and medical devices, and prices exploding, disclosure of company payments to doctors makes more sense than ever. Watering down sunshine provisions is counter-productive and goes against the trend in health care to have more transparency, not less. A lot of earlier payments to doctors were under the umbrella of Continuing Medical Education. We shouldn’t create a loophole that would let drug and medical device companies mask their payments to doctors under a payment category that’s too broad and could gut the spirit and the letter of the Sunshine Act.”