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.

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