Loophole to close on pharma financial disclosures to doctors

Unless the law changes, the pharmaceutical industry will need to start disclosing the value of any continuing education they provide to doctors under the so-called Sunshine Act.

A new reporting requirement will kick in in 2017 that will require drug and device manufacturers to disclose the value of continuing education sessions, medical journal reprints and textbooks that they provide to physicians, according to a STAT report.

That’s unless a Senate bill passes that would exempt the additional report under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which requires manufacturers of drugs, medical devices and biologicals that participate in federal healthcare programs to report certain payments and items of value given to physicians.

The bill, introduced by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, who is himself a physician, has won the support of about 100 national and state medical societies, including the American Medical Association. Physicians supporting the bill say it will help continue pharma’s support of up-to-date medical information for doctors, thus improving the quality of care for patients.

In a viewpoint piece, STAT journalist Ed Silverman said the effort by physicians is misguided and the bill should be deep-sixed. While patients do benefit when doctors learn about new treatments, including new drugs and devices, companies should be transparent about information when it comes to their funding of continuing education, he said.

“These programs have been controversial over concerns that drug and device makers not only fund the courses, but have also tightly controlled the educational curriculum to favor their products,” he said.  

In fact, a recent analysis found that payments from drug companies can affect prescription rates. Doctors who got a free meal from a drug maker had an increased rate of prescribing the brand-name medication the company was promoting, a study found.

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