The president of American Academy of Family Physicians, Dr. Ted Epperly, has misdiagnosed the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, claiming it would place “onerous” and “undue burdens” on physicians.
“It gets into every little detail,” Epperly tells AAFP News Now, and calls for reporting only payments above $500. That won’t do. Data collected in Vermont and Minnesota show that a whole lot of influencing happens before Epperly’s preferred $500 is ever reached, including meals, entertainment, and gifts.
The Sunshine Act would not burden physicians with paperwork: In fact, it would place the burden of compliance on companies. And Sen. Charles Grassley’s investigations have showed that interesting things happen when companies do report. The bill would not require any proprietary information to be revealed other than that which is already mandated and available on clinicaltrials.gov; the only additional data beyond that already in the clinical trials registry would be the amounts paid to investigators.
Epperly complains that physicians would be unable to correct misreported payments once they were published. Again, not correct. The 2009 version of the Sunshine Act allows physicians to correct erroneous information on the site. The bill, reintroduced by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Herb Kohl (D-WI), is a stronger version than one circulated last spring.
The uniform, public database that the Sunshine Act offers is the right medicine at the right time. The transparency and trust-building that the Sunshine Act offers is good for patients, and, all things being equal, that should be more than enough to win the AAFP’s support.
Family physicians play a crucial – and often under-appreciated – role in our health system. And they have been at the fore in acknowledging the problem of influence of industry marketing; state chapters in Oregon and Washington have taken steps to be pharm-free. We hope the AAFP will give this bill another look.