U.S. House wants more transparency regarding company gifts to docs

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Rep. Peter DeFazio, along with Rep. Peter Stark presented the new legislation. Source: Open Congress  

Reps. Peter Defazio, D-Ore., and Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Peter Stark, D-Calif., have introduced a bill to provide for transparency in the relationship between physicians and manufacturers of drugs, devices, or medical supplies for which payment is made under Medicare, Medicaid, the State Children Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and for other purposes.

The bill, “Physicians Payments Sunshine Act of 2008,” will require pharmaceutical and medical device companies to report to the public any gifts or payments to physicians that are valued at $25 or more.

The legislation is a companion to a bill sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Herb Kohl, D-Wis. Under the Senate bill, companies with at least $100 million in annual revenue would be required each quarter to disclose gifts or payments exceeding $25 in value, and the information would then be posted on a website, according to CQ Healthbeat.

Under the House legislation, this information would be made widely available to the public.

“The Sunshine Act will help enable Medicare beneficiaries to determine if their doctors are acting in patients’ best interests. It may even convince doctors to quit taking what can only be described as industry kickbacks,” Stark said.

The joint release also noted that pharmaceutical companies spend more than $19 billion dollars a year in direct marketing to physicians, which comes in the form of lavish trips, meals, speaking fees and honoraria. More than 94 percent of physicians admit to receiving these gifts every year, with many receiving payments in excess of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to the congressmen.