How Obama Helps Docs Clean Up their Act

Doctors,now bitching about getting screwed by the Obama health reform, ought  to be raked over the coals for turning themselves into  sales people for Big Pharma. A Big Pharma rep–especially a hunk or pretty woman–can appear at a doctor’s office with a box of candy or bunch of flowers for the secretaries or nurses. The door to the inner sanctum of the physician’s office is quickly opened..There, the sale rep chats up the doctors,asking them about their children, where they last took a vacation, and their proverbial game of golf. Then they invite these medical professionals  to a cozy dinner  in a plush but quiet restaurant for a discussion about new research showing how a drug approved for one purpose can actually be used for some other non-appproved purpose. Or the sales person  may issue the doctor an invitation to speak at a medical conference for big bucks, or even better,a deal to receive a lot of money for signing an article he or she  didn’t write.

   Among the little known pluses of the health reform is incorporation of the Sunshine Act which requires drug companies make public the amounts of money they pay physicians for their “services.” What this should mean is that when you go to the doctor and he happily tells you of the latest pill for the “gotta go” problem or a new  pill to control what might just be the beginnings of depression, or some new medicine to manage  eyelash length, you can go to the internet,look him up, and see who has paid her for doing what. In his blog Daniel Carlat,provides the details.Here is an excerpt:

  …. now that the Sunshine Act is officially the law of the land, what, exactly, are its provisions, and how might it affect medicine? … Essentially, the law requires that all drug and device companies report all payments made to physicians and teaching hospitals. This includes money for marketing activities, such as promotional talks and consultation, but also includes research grants, “charitable” contributions (which usually come with some promotional strings attached), and funding for conferences, whether CME or otherwise.

Given that so many drug companies have already published registries of physician payments, one might reasonably ask whether this act was actually needed, and whether it will really accomplish anything new. It was, and it will, and here’s why.

As noted by Eric Milgram on his Pharma Conduct Blog,the existing company sponsored disclosures provide few details and are formatted in such a way that they are “translucent” rather than “transparent.” As a patient, physician payment registries are important because they would presumably allow me to easily look up my doctor, and find out if he or she has been paid to push that new and expensive drug that was just prescribed for me. The current registries don’t provide that level of detail, and they make it hard or impossible to conduct efficient searches.

The Sunshine Act fixes this problem. Companies will be required to report names, addresses, the amount of the payment, the date of the payment, and the precise nature of the “service” provided by the doctor. Not only that, but if the payment was for a promotional talk, the company will have to disclose the name of the drug the doctor was pushing. Thus, for example, Eli Lilly’s current registry would allow you to find out that a doctor made $50,000 in 2009 performing what is vaguely (translucently) described as “healthcare professional education programs.” But the Sunshine Act registry will tell you that your doctor made $50,000 for marketing Zyprexa in 2009. In fact, the Zyprexa speaker’s payments will be broken down by date, so you might be able to discover that your doctor got a fat check exceeding your annual salary on the day before he wrote out a Zyprexa prescription for you.

One response to “How Obama Helps Docs Clean Up their Act

  1. Great post on a timely topic! For the latest update on Pfizer’s payments to physicians, check out:

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