Lilly to disclose payments to docs over $500

This week, Eli Lilly announced it will begin disclosing publicly amounts it pays to physicians for speaking engagements and consulting services next year, making it the first major pharmaceutical company to do so.

According to the Associated Press, “Eli Lilly will disclose payments of more than $500 to doctors for their roles as advisers and for speaking at educational seminars. In later years, the company will expand the types of payments disclosed to include such things as travel, entertainment and gifts.”

“We’ve learned that letting people see for themselves what we’re doing is a good way to restore trust,” Eli Lilly CEO Dr. John Lechleiter told the AP.

CNN reports that Merck will be following suit; AstraZeneca says it has no intention of disclosing, and other companies seem to be keeping it close to the vest while discussions with Congressional leaders around the Physician Payments Sunshine Act continue.

Read more at The Hill, Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, and the New York Times.

Mass appeal

But while Lechleiter said his company was willing to take some lumps for being first in voluntary disclosure, he minced no words last week in telling business leaders that the Bay State’s new gifts restriction and disclosure law will scare away life sciences investment, according to the Boston Business Journal.

Nonsense, says A Healthy Blog, which points to the opening of a $125 million Genzyme science center in Framingham this week, the new UMass Lowell bio-manufacturing center, and a study from the UMass Donahue Institute that found “85% of life sciences employers in the state actually plan to expand their in-state operations over the next two years” as evidence that all the pharma-threats to leave the state are still just that.

As for disclosure in the forthcoming regulations? The Umbrella Factor is key, the Blog says: “A well-funded and publicly accessible database such as the one mandated in Chapter 305…will only be as valuable as its Umbrella Factor – that is, its reach in covering all payments to all prescribers, made available to all.”

And Sen. Chuck Grassley’s latest conflict-of-interest investigation has led him to Medford, Mass, where Iowa’s senior Senator is looking into the triplicate payroll of Tufts researcher Dr. Marvin Konstam, who the Boston Globe reports may be moonlighting twice over — at the university, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and Orqis, a private heart device company where Konstam is the medical director.

“Anyone would be confused about who is Dr. Konstam’s employer,” Grassley wrote in a letter to National Institutes of Health director Dr. Elias Zerhouni Sept. 23. “Tufts? The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute? Orqis?”

All good questions, but the day after Grassley’s letter arrived, Zerhouni announced he will be stepping down as director of the Institutes, raising another one: Who’s going to write back to Sen. Grassley?  According to the WSJ Healthblog, “Zerhouni’s office said the NIH will work with Grassley on the matter.”

Extra Extra

And this Wall Street Journal report about two whistleblower lawsuits filed against Medtronic for some platinum-level plying of physicians (Alaskan fishing trips! Strip clubs! Millions of dollars!) is wacky enough to deserve some special treatment of its own.  Stay tuned …