The launch of drug giant Pfizer’s database of payments to doctors and medical groups this week has shone some more light on the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which passed last week with the comprehensive health reform bill. The company website, mandated in a court order as part of an illegal marketing settlement last year, showed that the company paid doctors $35 million in the last half of 2009–$20 million of it for consulting and promotional speaking.

The Sunshine act, as you recall, requires drug companies to report payments over $10 to physicians and teaching hospitals into a national public website. Such reports will begin in 2013. Allan Coukell, director of the Pew Prescription project, a key backer of the Sunshine Act over the last three years, talked to news organizations about the importance of transparency and the limited usefulness of company websites such as Pfizer’s to the public’s understanding of to the public.

“Separate company databases, while welcome, are still short of what we need, which is a single national database,” Coukell told the Wall Street Journal.

We wrote earlier on PostScript about the pros and cons of current company databases.

And University of Miami announced this week its own searchable database of drug company payments to faculty, joining a handful of other academic medical centers that have set up voluntary disclosure sites over the last several years.

“This is a growing trend,” Coukell told the Miami Herald. “I know of four other schools that are doing this. With the passage of the Sunshine Act, there’s going to be a lot, lot more.”

It’s in all the news that’s fit to print, and then some.

Read more in:

Associated Press

The New York Times

The Wall Street Journal

PBS Nightly Business Report

Science (subscription required)

–Kate Petersen, PostScript blogger