Do you know that there is a provision in the 2010 Healthcare Reform Law which requires the manufacturers of drugs and medical devices to disclose most payments and gifts made to physicians? This little-known provision of health care reform, presently in its proposed regulation stage, may offer added protections to patients and help decrease medical costs in the long term.
It goes even further. The proposed regulation provides that the public would be able to access information about the payments and gifts their physicians’ received by checking an Internet database website. Any payment or gift over $10 would have to be reported, while free samples given by drug sales people to docs would not require reporting. And patients could learn if their surgeon was gifted a “working” vacation in Cancun last year by a hip-joint replacement manufacturer.
The proposed regulations currently are in the public comment period, so there may be changes forthcoming. We know that the device and drug manufacturers are dedicated marketers because they are in business to make a profit; and the public should be reminded that those who practice the healing arts–physicians, surgeons, dentists, opticians, podiatrists, chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, etc.– while professionals, are in business also. According to an editorial appearing on the Los Angeles Times website, January 27, 2012, the results of a survey published in 2010 in the Annals of Internal Medicine indicated that 71 percent of doctors surveyed had accepted meals from drug companies and that physicians who accepted payments by drug manufacturers were “more likely to prescribe those companies’ expensive brand-name medications rather than cheaper generics.”
According to the Los Angeles Times editorial, the mere knowledge that this requirement might become law has apparently spurred some drug manufacturers to reporting the payments and gifts they make to physicians (probably required by the U.S. Tax Code as well). Luckily, the physicians this writer uses search for less expensive, and effective, generic medications before resorting to a brand name, without any prompting. The question remains as to whether having the knowledge that one's physician has accepted a gift from a drug manufacturer exceeding $10 would affect one's choice in a doctor, or make one seek or investigate a different medication? The likelihood of an affirmative response to the latter probably increases as the amount of the gift to the doctor rises.
 “Of Doctors and Drug Makers”, Editorial, latimes.com, January 27, 2012.