WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI) are introducing legislation to require manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs, devices and biologics to disclose the amount of money they give to doctors through payments, gifts, honoraria, travel and other means.
"Right now the public has no way to know whether a doctor's been given money that might affect prescribing habits," Grassley said. "This bill is about letting the sun shine in so that the public can know. Whether it's dinner at a restaurant or tens of thousands of dollars or more in fees and travel, patients shouldn't be in the dark about whether their doctors are getting money from drug and device makers."
"At our June hearing, the pharmaceutical industry told the Aging Committee that they believe their practices are above-board. If that is the case, full disclosure will only serve to prove them right. If that is not the case, full disclosure will bring their influence-peddling out from the shadows. Either way, patients win," Kohl said.
Sens. Claire McCaskill, Chuck Schumer, Amy Klobuchar and Ted Kennedy are original co-sponsors of the Grassley-Kohl bill introduced today.
"By requiring drug companies and medical device manufacturers to report on their gifts to doctors we are empowering patients to talk with their doctors about the drugs they are prescribed and to learn more about the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on the practice of medicine. I believe that by bringing light to these relationships this legislation will go far in reducing big drug companies influence on the business of medicine," McCaskill said.
"This bill will shine a much needed ray of sunlight on a situation that contributes to the exorbitant cost of health care. Patients have the right to know if drug and device makers are attempting to influence physician prescribing decisions with gifts, consultations and travel," Schumer said.
"This is common sense legislation that helps ensure the integrity of our health care system," said Klobuchar. "It's important to shed light on the millions of dollars these companies spend on marketing - money that could be put into research or lowering the cost of prescriptions."
The newly proposed federal legislation builds on similar initiatives in Minnesota, Vermont, Maine and West Virginia. The Physician Payments Sunshine Act would apply to manufacturers with $100 million or more in annual gross revenues. Penalties for not reporting payments would range from $10,000 to $100,000 per violation. The legislation requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a website and post payment information in a clear and understandable manner.
Grassley is Ranking Member of the Committee on Finance, where he has conducted oversight of educational grants awarded to doctors by drug companies. Kohl is Chairman of the Special Committee on Aging. He held a hearing in June to examine the financial relationship between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry.