Lilly to disclose financial physician paymentsother companies to follow?

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Eli Lilly is set to become the first pharmaceutical research company to disclose its payments to physicians in the U.S.

At a speech Wednesday before the Economic Club of Indiana, Lilly's president and CEO, John Lechleiter, PhD, outlined the company's plans to launch an online registry of physician payments in 2009. Lechleiter announced the physician registry as a part of a broader outline on the company's transformation efforts.

“We're flat-out rejecting the conventional wisdom that says it must take 10 to 15 years, and a billion dollars-plus, to bring a single new molecule to patients,” Lechleiter said.

Earlier this year, the Indianapolis-based Lilly endorsed the bipartisan federal legislation—known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act—that would establish a national registry of payments to physicians by medical device, medical supply and pharmaceutical companies. The legislation, introduced by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., last September, has not been passed yet by Congress.

“Though we remain hopeful that the Sunshine Act will be passed by Congress at some point, Lilly is taking action independently. Being more transparent by opening up our business to the public is an important step to building trust and confidence,” Lechleiter noted.

Under Lilly’s registry plan, the public will have access to an internet database listing its payments to physicians. Lilly will launch this registry as early as the second half of 2009. When first launched, its contents will include 2009 payments to physicians who serve the company as speakers and advisors. By 2011, Lilly plans to expand the reporting capabilities of the registry to resemble the Sunshine Act legislation. The registry will be updated annually to reflect the previous year's payment information.

Some other drug makers, including Merck, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (J &J) also have publicly supported the proposed legislation, according to CNN Money. Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose said that it plans to begin disclosing physician payments in 2009. AstraZeneca has no current plans to begin posting physician payments, spokeswoman Laura Woodin said. J &J spokesman Jeffrey Leebaw said the company supports the revised Physician Payment Sunshine Act, but didn't say whether J &J would begin disclosing physician payments before the act goes into effect, as Lilly has done. GlaxoSmithKline said it is “participating in the ongoing dialogue about how best to make this information available” according to spokeswoman Sarah Alspach.

“Eli Lilly is leading the charge for transparency in the relationship between pharmaceutical companies and doctors by fulfilling the obligations of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act before it has been enacted,” Kohl said.