'Sunshine Act' is making doctors nervous

The new law requires pharmaceutical companies to publicly disclose dollars they've given to physicians.

By Bruce Kennedy Aug 23, 2013 1:14PM

Medical doctor (© Digital Vision/Getty Images)A new law that requires Big Pharma to report most of the payments and gifts they give to doctors and teaching hospitals is apparently making a lot of doctors very nervous about coming under greater public scrutiny.

The so-called Physican Payments Sunshine Act went into effect earlier this month, and it applies to the manufacturers of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and biologicals that take part in federal health care programs. As The Wall Street Journal reports, that information will be posted on a publicly accessible website beginning in September 2014.

The drug industry has come under criticism for some time for the hundreds of millions of dollars it hands out annually to doctors in the form of gifts and fees. According to The Journal, drug giant Pfizer (PFE) paid out $173.2 million to U.S. health care professionals last year.

A lot of that funding comes in the form of consulting and speaking fees, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars at a time. But some physicians say the new disclosure regulations are making them review their relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

"I'll continue to weigh the benefits and the negatives, and I think the Sunshine Act and the public reporting of all this stuff makes us think about that," John Mandrola, a Louisville, Ky.-based cardiologist, told The Journal. "And I think that's a good thing."

Dr. Mandrola said he has been paid around $2,000 this year by medical device makers to speak at some engagements. But he has also become more cautious about accepting such fees, and told newspaper that he now "avoids industry reps visiting his office, believing he can get information on new drugs elsewhere."

The one major exception to the new law is payments or other compensation made by businesses to doctors speaking at some accredited, continuing medical education events, but only if the sponsoring corporation doesn't select or directly pay the event's speaker.

The AMA also says doctors have the right to review these new disclosure reports and to challenge what they consider false, inaccurate or misleading data. Some industry critics, however, hope the new regulations will force physicians to think twice about the sometimes too-comfortable relationships many have with pharmaceutical and other companies.

"The idea is that transparency will encourage doctors to evaluate whether these are appropriate relationships with companies or not," Daniel Carlat, a psychiatrist and director of the prescription project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, told The Journal.

More on moneyNOW

Aug 23, 2013 3:50PM
Doctors should be doctors and not salesmen for big Pharma companies.
Aug 23, 2013 7:01PM
When will we get a law like this for our politicians?
Aug 23, 2013 4:01PM
I live in the Bay Area.  I was told by an older dentist that newly graduated dentists see the Bay Area as a place to get rich so they do unnecessary work.  I think a lot of today's doctors are not like the earlier versions and are more interested in making a buck than patient care.  Even some pharmacists are that way.  Look at the pharmacist in Kansas city that diluted chemotherapy drugs so he could make more money.  Today you can't really trust anyone, no matter what their occupation.
Aug 23, 2013 5:02PM

Dollars given to Doctors being disclosed makes them nervous and feel disgraced? They sure have a different mindset than our politicians!


Aug 23, 2013 8:42PM
And yet when the Senate passed a rule 96-0 to match the House rule that any company that donated to a bill's sponsor that's benefitting from the bill must be made public, Harry Reid used a parliamentary procedure to kill it.  Yet he found the time to make sure doctors need to be more transparent!
Aug 23, 2013 10:12PM
Aug 23, 2013 4:29PM
very good new law....I feel that doctors prescribe new medications without knowing the complete picture of the side effects, just because of kickbacks and free samples they are given by pharm manufacturing representatives....the older drugs work just as well or better, and cost the customer/patient much less....they get by with it because most folks have some sort of insurance, Medicaid, or medicare....but for the uninsured, its just another burden, a medication they cant afford to take.....and so remain unmedicated....
Aug 23, 2013 5:05PM

I have walked away from physicians who seemed intent on pushing drugs that had little or no justification in my life.  They got those samples from the pharmas pushing them at dinners and other events these docs get as perks.  We are the most medicated nation on earth.  This is why. 


Aug 23, 2013 6:23PM
They're called 'kickbacks' and they should be illegal. Period.
Aug 23, 2013 3:41PM
Intended or not, this is going to probably put an end to free samples that doctors give to patients, which will raise the cost for the patients and the people like me who pay their bills.
Aug 24, 2013 9:04AM
Let's make it a crime for elected all officials to accept speaking fees while they are in office and for 20 years after. Also, let's outlaw elected officials from becoming lobbyists at any time during or after their time in office.
Aug 23, 2013 6:07PM

Of all the screwed up things in our "patient centered" healthcare system (BS unless the patient is a $100 bill), the relationship between drug companies, doctors, and the public is one of the most screwed up. From the pharmaceutical commercials advising patients to "tell your doctor..." (aren't they the one's with the medical degrees? shouldn't they be advising me what drugs are safe and effective?) to doctor kickbacks from pharma corporations that lead the prescription of drugs that might not be either affordable or the most effective. While I doubt that disclosing the seedy dealings of our professional pushers...ahem, I mean "doctors"...will change the way they operate, at least it will make it transparent enough to get laws passed that actually will do something.

Aug 23, 2013 5:23PM
The AMA is a joke.They're out to make  money,  not to provide care. Medical care is not a consumer good. The pharms should be regulated to the hilt, and Doctors put on salary  Most of those drugs don't do anything anyway.
Aug 23, 2013 1:27PM
This should be good for healthcare costs.  Because without the kickbacks from the drug companies doctors would provide cheaper effective medicine or even generics that are available instead of insanely priced name brands.
Aug 23, 2013 7:21PM
The pharmaceutical companies should have NOTHING to do with the Physician and their patients , and bribing doctors is a direct influence .
MSN come on we need to be able to comment on the 88 year old getting beat to death in Spokane
Aug 23, 2013 6:27PM
A few years ago, Phara stopped hiring nurses and started hiring college cheerleaders as saleswomen.  I was waiting for a doctor's appointment once and my doctor and his partner came into the office with a cute saleswoman walking between them.  She made sure that the staff had a full sandwich bar before she left.
As for me, I always ask what financial interest my healthcare provider has in any referral.  More often than not, financial interests seem to line up with suggestions.
My own preference would be if the the medical industry was subject to the same restrictions as the military-industrial complex, where undue influence peddling (outside of Congress) is rewarded with free stays in federal prisons.
Aug 23, 2013 1:50PM

Time for a Medical disclaimer:

This may cause you to become irritable or short-tempered.

Some discomfort maybe experienced, if you feel uncomfortable is it because you should be.

If you have thoughts of suicide you may want to call your lawyer and have your will checked first.

Some instances of full disclosure will be seen and YOU are responsible. No one else.

Your patients will receive some comfort from the fact that you are experiencing difficulties from Big Pharma.

You may have thoughts of leaving the country.

Do be afraid to stop taking payola.

Aug 23, 2013 5:29PM
they must be worried about the tax implications
Aug 24, 2013 12:03AM
They don't give them money. They buy them things and feed the whole office 5 days a week. Breakfast and lunch, and throw them holiday parties for them and there staff.
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