APP - ACA shines a light on payments to doctors from pharmaceutical firms


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Yet another good thing about ACA!

U.S. doctors are bracing for increased public scrutiny of the payments and gifts they receive from pharmaceutical and medical-device companies as a result of the new health law.

Starting this month, companies must record nearly every transaction with doctors—from sales reps bearing pizza to compensation for expert advice on research—to comply with the so-called Sunshine Act provision of the U.S. health-care overhaul. The companies must report data on individual doctors and how much they received to a federal health agency, which will post it on a searchable, public website beginning September 2014.

Many doctors say the increased disclosures are making them rethink their relationships with industry, citing concerns about privacy and accuracy, and worry that the public wivll misinterpret the information. Some fear patients will view the payments as tainting their medical decisions, and will lump together compensation for research-related services with payments of a more promotional nature.

Drug companies collectively pay hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and gifts to doctors every year. In 2012, Pfizer Inc., PFE -0.35% the biggest drug maker by sales, paid $173.2 million to U.S. health-care professionals. Some companies including Pfizer have decreased these payments in recent years; Pfizer's total was $195.4 million for 2011.

Consulting and speaking fees are an important source of income for some physicians, who can be paid tens of thousands of dollars a year for such services. But now physicians say they will be much more selective about the work they do and what they will accept from industry representatives. Some are even restricting access to their offices by sales reps, or requiring forms that document the value of anything brought to the office, according to medical societies.

Several drug and device makers—including Pfizer and Eli Lilly LLY +0.06% & Co.—have been posting physician-payment data online for the past few years. Some U.S. states already require companies to report such information. But the Sunshine Act will significantly widen the scope because it applies to most companies—any company whose products are covered by Medicare—and the government's launch of the database could draw greater public attention.