Drugmakers and medical-device manufacturers would be required to disclose how much money they give doctors through direct payments, gifts, honoraria and travel if a group of influential senators has its way.
Right now, the public has no way to know whether a doctor (has) been given money that might affect prescribing habits, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee said in a written statement. Whether its dinner at a restaurant or tens of thousands of dollars or more in fees and travel, patients shouldnt be in the dark about whether their doctors are getting money from drug and devicemakers.
Grassley, along with Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, have sponsored a bill that would levy fines of up to $100,000 against manufacturers that do not publicly report the payments. The bill is backed by senior Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as freshman Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
The bill would apply to manufacturers with $100 million or more in gross revenue, and would require HHS to create and maintain a Web site that lists the payment information in an easy-to-understand format.
It has been estimated that the drug industry spends $19 billion annually on marketing to physicians in the form of gifts, lunches, drug samples and sponsorship of education programs, Kohl said. But as the largest payer of prescription drug costs, the federal government has an obligation to examine and take action when companies unfairly or illegally attempt to manipulate the market. -- by Matthew DoBias