Consumer News

Doctor-Industry Financial Connections Revealed

It's D-Day for the Sunshine Act. Find out who has been wining and dining your doctor.


Consumer News

Doctor-Industry Financial Connections Revealed

Consumers now have access a database that allows them to find out what ties their doctors have to medical companies and whether there are any financial incentives for a physician to recommend or prescribe a particular product.

Under a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (ACA), consumers can view the database, which will shed light on financial ties between drug and device manufacturers and health care providers. The provision, known as the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, grew out of the government’s desire to enforce anti-kickback statutes and reveal conflicts of interests between doctors and the medical industry.

Last winter, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is overseeing the regulations, finalized rules for the provision, but consumers won’t see the benefits until next year when the information has to be disclosed to the public.

Who’s covered under the rules?

The rule requires that manufacturers of drugs, medical devices and medical supplies covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program report financial payments for meals, travel, entertainment, royalties, licenses, gifts, research, or education provided to physicians or hospitals. The government can fine companies up to $1 million if the payments aren’t disclosed.

Companies don’t have to reveal payments under $10, product samples, education materials provided to patients, loans of covered devices during trial periods, or discounts.

Why are these regulations important to consumers?

Laws already on the books prevent physicians from prescribing a drug or recommending a particular medical device if the physician or close family member has a vested financial interest in the company making the products. Advocates for the regulations say the rules will help prevent medical companies from concealing ties with medical providers, help reduce conflicts of interest, and empower consumers to make informed decisions about products they are being advised to use.

Said Peter Budetti, a doctor and deputy administrator for CMS,

You should know when your doctor has a financial relationship with the companies that manufacture or supply the medicines or medical devices you may need. Disclosure of these relationships allows patients to have more informed discussions with their doctors.


This story was updated on 9/30/2014.

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