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Drug Makers “Transparency” Bandwagon Getting Full

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, September 25, 2008 11:57 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Conflict-Of-Interest, Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Pharmaceutical Companies, Drug Makers, Drug Products, FDA and Prescription Drugs

Many major pharmaceutical companies now say they will disclose payments to doctors as part of transparency.



IMAGE SOURCE: iStockphoto/ sick money/ author: Elnur


Drug maker Eli Lilly on Wednesday became the first drugmaker to announce that it plans to disclose just how much it pays to doctors and researchers for speaking and consulting services.

Not to be outdone,  Merck announced it would disclose physician payments beginning next year in the form of an online database. 

Johnson & Johnson will soon begin telling us how much it spends for professional educational grants, patient-advocacy groups, and charities. AstraZeneca is considering transparency policies.  Pfizer has voted it will disclose too.

Speaking before the Economic Club of Indiana, Lilly’s president and CEO John Lechleiter, PhD, said the company planned to launch an online registry of physician payment in 2009, all part of the company’s “transformation efforts”.

Lilly says it wants to be a leader in improving "transparency" across the industry as a way to build trust with the public.

The companies have pledged their support of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2007 which requires quarterly reporting by every drug, device, or medical supplier of anything of value to a doctor or his employer.

The payment must detail what the compensation is for -  whether a speaking engagement or consulting, for example, and what form the payment takes, such as cash, travel, gifts, or entertainment.

Penalties range from $1,000 for failing to report a payment to an annual cap of $250,000.

The Act would create a national registry of such payments, according to Pharmalot.  The legislation introduced by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Herbert Kohn (D-Wisconsin) last September has yet to be passed by Congress.

Lilly plans to create an internet database beginning in mid 2009, according  Lechleiter,  but won’t report payments from 2008 or before.  Initially it will report direct payments in 2009, later it will add travel and other perks such as entertainment.

"Lilly is proud of the important and longstanding relationships we have with physicians," Lechleiter said in a statement. "Many physicians perform valuable services for the biopharmaceutical industry by advising us on the development of new medicines and giving lectures to other medical professionals to educate them about new treatment options. For these services, they are compensated at market rates. These services help to advance the science related to medicines and are important to both current and future patients who rely on pharmaceuticals as an integral part of their therapy."

Four states and Washington DC force the disclosure of payments from drug makers to doctors. This does not include payments from device makers.

The aim of disclosure laws is to give consumers the information they need to decide if their doctor might be swayed by the gifts, either by writing more prescriptions, pushing positive findings, or hiding negative ones.

The drug makers sudden urge to disclose comes as they face a federal and state push for some form of disclosure about the financial ties between the pharma industry, doctors, and researchers.

The news about conflict-of-interest has done nothing for the credibility of the industry.  

Senate investigations have found researchers at institutions such as Harvard and the University of Cincinnati failed to report millions they raked in from drug makers.

One doctor from Harvard, Dr. Joseph Biederman, was among three distinguished Harvard University psychiatrists who failed to report over three million dollars in payments they received from drug makers, violating U.S. government and school rules.

Dr. Biederman is known worldwide for his controversial work in researching and promoting antipsychotic medicines such as Strattera, used in the treatment for attention deficit disorder in children.

Hiding these payments makes Grassley think these researchers have something to conceal.

The American Medical Association has agreed to support disclosure laws, but wants the value of the gift to be over $500.

Furious Seasons, a web site written by a journalist who is bi-polar, keeps tabs on Lilly and includes this First Quarter list of individual payment amounts from 2008.

The American Psychiatric Association and Massachusetts General Hospital psychiatry department are at the top of the list of recipients each about $600.000. # 

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