Journalism in the Public Interest

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.

Abid Katib/Getty Images file photo

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.

Frank Giramonti

Dec. 15, 2011, 6:22 p.m.

I find it interesting how Credit Swisse is one of your advertisers on this very page. Credit Swisse was and is one of the major culprits in the financial disaster we find ourselves in. I guess when you have to pay your editor Paul Steiger $450,000.00 a year you will take anyone!

Nadim Salomon

Dec. 15, 2011, 7:49 p.m.

Do you see anything wrong educating Health Practitioners how to use a drug safely for an approved indication? I have been a speaker and no pharmaceutical company can and has ever asked me to prescribe their drugs. You failed to realize that manufacturers are the best source of information about their products and that interactions between manufacturers and health providers should benefit patients.

Nadim, do you believe that a Honda salesman is the best source of information about Hondas?  Manufacturers are generally the worst source of information, since they’d rather not think about the downsides and have no knowledge of your patients.

You specifically may not prescribe based on sales pressure, but there’s consistent evidence that it’s happening.  Don’t you think your fellow doctors should be held to your standard?

More generally, the pharmaceutical companies are always releasing poorly-researched drugs, sometimes implausibly tainted (like drugs that somehow had live HIV in them…which got sold in Europe and Africa, of course), trying to run roughshod over the FDA and intellectual property laws (or using those laws to deprive poor people of treatment), and generally make it clear that we’re only important as revenue sources.

Even if this just a tempest in a teapot and we’re only hearing about the very bad cases, holding these companies to ANY degree of accountability is a good thing, and it’s insane that there are any second thoughts as to whether it’s “worth it.”  That’s especially obscene coming from a government that consistently tells us that, “if we have nothing to hide,” we shouldn’t worry about anonymity or privacy.

James M. Worley

Dec. 16, 2011, 6:03 p.m.

I think it should be mandatory to disclose this information and give them a firm date it has to be disclosed.

Agree John and totally disagree with Nadims post. Pharma does pay doctors for lectures and other things to “push and talk about the
benefits of certain drugs & medical devices.  Also Pharmas salespeople visit doctors offices, giving them free samples and a big talk up about how great this new pill is. Then doctors RX to their patients, based only on what a salesperson has told them. Many doctors are in the “dark”, especially when it comes to newer drugs..they just RX them like crazy, and most don’t even know the side effects. So it usually takes years of death or severe side effects before FDA even gets involved.  I would NOT even take a new drug for at least 5 years of being on the market and major side effects get known.
  Pharma has also enlisted doctors to try and Ban Supplements/vitamins so that Pharma can take it over and charge 100 times more, leaving consumers stuck with big Pharma all over.
It is time that more doctors stop thinking Pharma is their Boss and realize it is us consumers that really pay them.  Pharma makes a bundle of money before their patents run out, regardless of how many doctors get p aid to lecture about how great the RX is or how great the medical device is.  I know someone that has had 4 different surgeries to keep replacing the Same Ole medical device that never has worked,  and it is No joke for the patients, but one for the mfg.

Barbara Blanton

Dec. 23, 2011, 4:36 p.m.

Detailers from Big Pharma are one of the major reasons patients’ appointments with the docs are late besides patient emergencies.  I have been an RN for 50 years and my son was a drug representative in Austin Texas for one of the major, major drug companies.  They all hang out back in the offices, talk about the drugs, sports and whatever else they enjoy talking about or flirt with the attractive docs or drug representatives taking up valuable time.  They never have appointments on the patient books.

Just watch the next time you are waiting for your appointment and note the people who walk in to the patient suites with a briefcase or small suitcase.  These are the drug reps.  Note how long they are in there.  There can be multiple drug reps in and out in one morning.

Now these samples are used extensively by the doc’s family and friends as well as a some of his poor patient and or favorite patients so their can be a benefit to a few.  I used to be married to a doc too.

Correction:  Patient should be should patients and their should be there in second in second to last line.  Sorry.  Lots of chaos here <g>.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
Dollars for Doctors

Dollars for Doctors: How Industry Money Reaches Physicians

ProPublica is tracking the financial ties between doctors and medical companies.

The Story So Far

ProPublica is investigating the financial ties between the medical community and the drug and device industry. In October 2010, ProPublica compiled the list of payments that drug companies make to physicians and built a publicly searchable database so that patients could look up their doctors.

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