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It’s been 927 days (back of our envelope, anyways) since Senators Charles Grassley and Herb Kohl first introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, a bill that would require drug and device companies to disclose on a public, searchable website the gifts and payments they make to physicians and teaching hospitals. (Postscript is younger by a few weeks.)
Today, the Sunshine Act became law, as a provision in the national health care reform bill signed by President Obama. You can read the final provisions here.
Though it has not captured headlines like the coverage provisions and insurance regulations in the reform bill have, today’s passage of the Sunshine act is itself a dramatic answer to years of growing questions about how to balance the need for industry to work with academic researchers and the need to keep patients safe with good prescribing that is free from the influence of marketing. In recent years, that line has often proved a blurry one, as a series of investigations and media reports revealed that physicians have received millions of undisclosed dollars in speaking and advisory roles for drug companies, even as they conducted research on drugs made by those companies. PostScript has been along for much of that ride (as the archives in the right rail attest).
The momentum for Sunshine has come from a lot of corners – the investigations and hearings, led by Sens. Kohl and Grassley, that brought to light some of the most dramatic conflicts-of-interest between marketing and medicine.
It has come from many Members of Congress, who co-sponsored, worked on and advocated for Sunshine over the years.
It has come from academic medical centers and professional medical associations, who took a look at their own relationships with industry and developed policies to clarify those relationships.
It has come from the AMSA Scorecard, a joint project of the American Medical Student Association, Community Catalyst and the Pew Prescription Project to rank the conflict-of-interest policies at every medical school in the nation.
It has come from state lawmakers and regulators, who brought bills and rules aimed to better safeguard prescribing from the influence of marketing dollars.
It has come from the efforts of numerous groups, including ours here at Community Catalyst and at the Pew Prescription Project.
It has come from the broad-based National Coalition for Appropriate Prescribing, which helped remind Congress why transparency is so important for consumers.
And it has come from pharmaceutical and medical device companies, many of whom acknowledged, in revised conduct codes and voluntary disclosure measures, that gifts don’t have a place in the doctor’s office.
We are proud of this collective effort, and all the work that went into getting Sunshine on the books. Thank you.
–Kate Petersen, PostScript blogger