Articles: Physician Payments Sunshine Act

The “Physician Payments Sunshine Act” was signed into law in 2011. By March of 2013, all U.S. manufacturers and distributors of drugs and medical devices were required to report information to the U.S. government concerning every payment that they are making to physicians of every kind, from research grants to Hawaiian vacations. Will these disclosures affect how giant medical companies do business? And how will they effect the quality of medical care that you can expect?

What is the Sunshine Act?

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act was signed into law in March, 2010 as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2009 (H.R. 3590, section 6002). It’s a law that is intended not to regulate or control the amount of funding that flows from pharmaceutical companies and medical manufacturers to doctors, but only to disclose that amount, specifically and in detail.

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Why We Need the Sunshine Act: Part 1

In June, 2012, the United States government concluded its criminal prosecution of Paxil manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline with a settlement in which the drug manufacturing giant agreed to plead guilty to charges of health care fraud and pay $3 billion in fines.

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Why We Need the Sunshine Act: Part 2

Dr. Karen Wagner, an academic in the area of child psychiatry, is best known only to her colleagues. GSK used her to persuade other psychiatrists that Paxil was safe and effective for use with children and teens. But GSK was happy to use not just academics, but “pop docs” as well in its determination to increasingly expand the market for its products.

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Why We Need the Sunshine Act: Part 3

The Duke University Diet and Fitness Centre released a “skinny” portion of their marketing campaign, promoting the antidepressant Wellbutrin as a weight loss pill. This blatant off-label usage was the result of psychiatrist Kishore Gadde noticing some of his depressed patients were losing weight when he gave them Wellbutrin. This was one portion of many marketing efforts designed to promote antidepressants to a broad range of non-psychiatric patients.

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Who is Attacking the Sunshine Act: Part 1

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act was passed in March of 2010, and its provisions state that pharmaceutical and medical manufacturers must begin reporting all of their payments to doctors by March of 2013. Yet the agency charged by Congress with enforcement of this statute, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has yet to enact rules and guidelines for this reporting that must begin in just a few short months—rules that were supposed to by legislative mandate already be finalized and published in October of 2011.

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Who is Attacking the Sunshine Act: Part 2

As we noted in Part 1, CMS was supposed to finalized regulations for the implementation of the Sunshine Act by October, 2011. It’s over a year later, and we still have no published regulations. Why? Well, says Nial Brennan, a spokesman for CMS, that agency has had to wade through a great many challenges to the proposed regulations from the “stakeholders” in the statutory scheme. AME decided to take a look at the objections that were filed in response to the regulations to see what some of those objections were.

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Who is Already Reporting Payments to Physicians?

Although the Sunshine Act has yet to be implemented, some pharmaceutical companies are already disclosing payments made to physicians, and the numbers may surprise you.

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