Sunshine Act to Shine Light on Pharmaceutical Dollars Paid to Doctors

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

“For example, at Stanford University, the chairman of psychiatry received a federal grant to study a drug, while partially owning as much as $6 million in stock in a company that was seeking federal approval of that drug,” the release said. “After exposure, the federal government removed the individual from the grant.”

The Act was approved in March 2010 and CMS published its final rules in February.

Starting on Aug. 1, drug companies and device manufacturers will begin collecting information on the amounts of money they give doctors and teaching hospitals. The first reporting period ends at the end of the year. The companies will then submit the information to CMS by March 31, 2014, and the government will have the data publicly available by the end of September 2014. Companies face fines of $150,000 if they don’t report and $1 million if they knowingly fail to report to CMS.


It’s unclear, though, how the relationships will change between doctors and pharmaceutical companies.

“You’re always going to see physicians involved in research. … with advisory boards. I’m not sure where some of the other interactions may go,” said Seth Whitelaw, director of health sciences compliance at Deloitte & Touche LLP, which released a physician survey on the subject in June. “I think that’s an open question right now.”

ProPublica of New York, a nonprofit news organization, has a database on its website that shows what doctors receive from drug companies. But the information is limited to what the companies have publicly reported, and not all companies have reported the information.

Even with the limited reports, “some doctors have told us that they have curtailed their financial relationships with drug publication of payment information, but others have indicated that it hasn’t made a difference,” Charles Ornstein, a senior reporter for ProPublica, said in an email to Arkansas Business last week.

The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which has the state’s only teaching hospital, said it implemented a policy about two years ago that prevents UAMS physicians from accepting items of value from drug reps, said Charles Smith, the executive associate dean at UAMS’ College of Medicine.

UAMS also established an approval and disclosure process for employees who do provide work for drug companies.

Smith said UAMS wanted to prevent any instance where a physician might develop a “close relationship” with a drug company and then have to buy products from that company.

“We … thought it was time to ratchet down,” Smith said. “There was a time in the medical community in which this was pretty much standard operating procedure to have drug companies” provide items of value to doctors.



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