A September 27 editorial in the New York Times calls on the US Congress to pass legislation that will force pharmaceutical companies to publicly disclose all payments they make to physicians. As the editorial puts it, “Patients need to know that doctors are prescribing particular drugs for sound medical reasons — not because drug companies have bought their doctors’ loyalty.”
The editorial follows an exposé the New York Times published this past July (see the AHP report) in which it was revealed that “nearly 1/3 of the [American Psychiatric Association’s] budget comes directly from the pharmaceutical industry, in the form of journal ads, convention exhibits, and the sponsoring of fellowships, conferences, and symposia.”
The new editorial notes that “some of the payments are for legitimate services, others look like improper inducements, and all have a potential to influence a doctor’s prescribing habits.” Pharmaceutical giants Eli Lilly and Merck have pledged to reveal some of their payments, but the NYT urges that only legislation can solve the problem by forcing all such payments to be made public.
The bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senators Charles Grassley and Herb Kohl, would require reporting by drug companies and the manufacturers of medical devices, medical supplies and biological medicines. Companies would have to disclose not only speaking and consulting fees but a wide range of other payments to physicians, like stock options, profit distributions, ownership or investment interests, gifts, travel and entertainment, and payment for clinical investigations.