January 22, 2009 / 7:06 PM / 11 years ago

Gifts to doctors must be disclosed under bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Drug and medical device manufacturers would need to publicly disclose all doctor payments and gifts exceeding $100 per year under U.S. legislation unveiled on Thursday.

Companies would face penalties as high as $1 million for knowingly failing to report the payments if the bill by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley and Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl becomes law.

The effort is meant to shine light on the industry’s lavish gifts to doctors, which range from pricey dinners to golf vacations, as well as consulting and speaking fees.

Critics have said the payments may skew doctors’ decision-making.

“The goal of our legislation is to lay it all out, make the information available for everyone to see, and let people make their own judgments about what the relationships mean or don’t mean,” Grassley said in a statement.

The information would be posted online for public viewing, the senators said.

Kohl said he was confident the legislation, called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, would pass in the current Democratic-led Congress.

A previous version did not advance in the last congressional session. It required public reporting only if payments topped $500 per year.

Drug and medical device makers supported the earlier version and said on Thursday they were reviewing the new measure.

Pfizer Inc said paid collaborations between doctors and drugmakers “lead to valuable scientific innovations and improved patient care.”

“We agree with the senators that sharing this information publicly in a simple and uniform manner is the best way to provide a complete picture,” a Pfizer statement said.

Some manufacturers are moving ahead with voluntary efforts. Eli Lilly & Co will begin disclosing physician payment information later this year.

Medical device makers believe disclosures should provide “meaningful information ... in an appropriate context,” said Stephen Ubl, president of industry group AdvaMed.

A voluntary device industry code of ethics prohibits companies from providing entertainment or recreation for doctors, AdvaMed said.

Grassley said he is considering if reporting requirements should also apply to industry payments to medical organizations, hospitals, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacists and pharmacies, continuing medical education groups and medical schools.

Kohl chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging and Grassley is the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Richard Chang and Carol Bishopric

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