Sunshine Act to Shine Light on Pharmaceutical Dollars Paid to Doctors

by Mark Friedman  on Monday, Apr. 8, 2013 12:00 am  

Starting in September 2014, a record of all payments that drug companies make to doctors will be publicly available, a situation raising concerns among both physicians and drug companies.

The main rules under the federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act will require pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturers to report anything of value given to doctors or teaching hospitals. The act was designed to cut down on potential abuses between the parties.

The payments will cover “a wide array of purposes, including consulting, speaking engagements, advisory board service, travel, food, royalty payments, and clinical research,” according to an August 2011 report by Tracy Miller, a senior member of the Health Care Group at the law firm Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York.

The drug companies and manufacturers will have to submit the information to the Department of Health & Human Services’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which will post it to a website that will allow users to root around for information.

The disclosure of the payments to doctors and teaching hospitals poses risks to them, Miller wrote. The information might indicate fraud or abuse “or may present a reputational risk due to the appearance of impropriety,” Miller said in the report.

“No doctor wants to be on this list,” said Dr. Richard Willner, executive vice president of the America’s Medical Society of San Diego, which is a competitor to the American Medical Association.

But the Arkansas Medical Society thinks the Sunshine Act isn’t a big deal. “In our meetings and discussions with physicians from around the state about a variety of issues, this is not one that comes up,” said David Wroten, executive vice president of the association of Arkansas physicians.

Some doctors and teaching hospitals have already made changes to how they deal with drug companies. But a recent study found that many doctors still don’t know about the new law and its implications.

The study — conducted by MMIS Inc., a technology company in New York that develops communication products, and Healthcare Data Solutions Survey of Irvine, Calif., and released in February — showed that half of the 1,000 doctors surveyed said they didn’t know the details of the law.

The survey also showed about two-thirds of the doctors “were deeply concerned that a record of these payments will be available in a publicly searchable database.”

Before the payment information is published, doctors will have 45 days to review the information and appeal anything that’s wrong.

A startup company out of Searcy is trying to profit from the Sunshine Act. Clinicpass Inc. has a product that will help doctors manage a database of their dealings with pharmaceutical and device companies. With Clinicpass, doctors will have detailed records of their interactions that could help them quickly verify the information that will be submitted to federal regulators, said Padgett Mangan, business development director of the company.



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