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Government Runs Late With Rules For Disclosing Drug Company Payments to Doctors

The agency responsible for administering health care reform, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, published proposed rules last night, well after its Oct. 1 deadline.

The federal government has fallen behind in its effort to publish the payments that pharmaceutical and medical device companies make to physicians. It might even miss a deadline to do so by 2013, officials disclosed last night.

The government is required to make the information available under the Affordable Care Act, the controversial health insurance overhaul President Obama signed into law last year.

The federal agency responsible for administering the law, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was supposed to publish proposed regulations governing the collection and release of the payment data by Oct. 1. But CMS only did so last night.

The law envisioned that data collection would start in January 2012. But CMS is suggesting that pharmaceutical, medical-device and biologics companies disclose payments for only part of 2012. And it is seeking comments on whether it would be worth collecting data next year at all.

For now, you can find data on drug company payments to doctors here at ProPublica. Our Dollars for Docs database covers 12 companies that are already disclosing data voluntarily or due to legal settlements. It is searchable by physician, address and company.

CMS estimates that as many as 1,150 different manufacturers and another 420 health-care group purchasing organizations may have to submit data on payments to doctors under the health reform law.

Members of Congress and pharmaceutical companies have been eagerly anticipating the government’s proposed regulations. Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Herb Kohl, D-Wis., postponed a Thursday hearing about the law until early next year in order to allow time for review.

The two senators had introduced the original disclosure provisions as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. In October, they expressed “severe disappointment” in CMS’s delay.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the drug industry trade group, said it was “gratified to see” the federal government had “updated the implementation timeline.”

The new window, PhRMA said, would help biopharmaceutical companies receive “adequate time to set up their data collection systems prior to implementation.”

CMS is accepting comments on the proposed rules until Feb. 17 and plans to publish final regulations later in the year.

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