Medical Innovation Bill Would Water Down Disclosure of Industry Payments to Doctors
It’s always interesting what businesses try to conceal—for example, that a doctor speaking on behalf of a new wonder drug is being paid large sums by the pharmaceutical company that manufactures the drug. So the pharmaceutical companies AND the doctors do everything they can to conceal the payments. Note that the doctors are just as sleazy and dishonest as the corporations in this set-up.
Charles Ornstein writes at ProPublica:
UPDATE: Provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act dealing with disclosure of physician payments were removed from the bill Tuesday, following criticism from some lawmakers and transparency advocates, a GOP aide said. /update [interesting what a disinfectant sunlight can be, which is why the FOIA is so important—and the Obama administration record of compliance with FOIA requests is abysmal, but I bet it is much better than what we’ll see from the Trump administration. My earlier post is right to the point. – LG]
This week, Congress is expected to consider a bill promoting biomedical research and innovation that would also weaken requirements on pharmaceutical and medical device companies to disclose certain payments to doctors.
The goal of the 21st Century Cures Act, which has bipartisan support, is to help bring drugs and devices to market faster and at lower cost. It would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration and would provide grants to states to address the growing problem of narcotic overdoses.
But tucked into the 996-page bill, released on Friday, are provisions that would water down some requirements of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, passed in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. That law requires drug and device companies to publicly report virtually all payments to doctors, including meals, gifts, travel, royalties, as well as speaking and consulting fees. The disclosures can be found on the government’s Open Payments website and on ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs tool.
Under the Cures Act, companies would not have to report the value of textbooks and medical journal reprints given to doctors. They also wouldn’t have to disclose payments for continuing medical education courses, essentially training programs funded by companies about subjects that they care about and run by third-parties. Drug companies are not supposed to have a say in the speakers for such programs.
The preponderance of payments reported under the Sunshine Act are for meals. Of the 26.5 million non-research payments made from August 2013 to December 2015, 22.9 million of them, or 87 percent, were for meals. These would remain disclosed under the new measure.
By contrast, about 4 percent, or 1 million, were for educational items and gifts, according to a ProPublica analysis.
Dozens of medical societies have called for the exemptions, saying patients benefit when physicians have access to the most up-to-date medical information.
“These are smart tweaks to the law,” said Thomas Sullivan, president of Rockpointe Corp., which provides continuing medical education to physicians, and editor of a website that follows industry developments. “This is not trying to tear down transparency in any respect. This is simply to make it a little bit more clear that things that are for education, which really falls into the free speech clause of the Constitution, aren’t reported on.”
But critics say the changes would weaken an important pillar of oversight for drug companies. . .