MedPAC Recommends Public Disclosure of Payments to Physicians

October 15, 2008
Pharmaceutical Technology Editors
ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

At a public meeting, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) discussed its recommendation that Congress establish a national database to publicly reveal financial relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry.

Washington, DC (Oct. 2)-At a public meeting, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) discussed its recommendation that Congress establish a national database to publicly reveal financial relationships between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry. Jeffrey Stensland and Ariel Winter, senior analysts at MedPAC, explained the details and weighed the advantages and disadvantages of the group’s plan.

The commission’s plan would require manufacturers of drugs, biologicals, devices, and supplies to report their payments to physicians. According to the recommendations, payment recipients to be disclosed would include physicians and prescribers, hospitals and medical schools, professional and patient-advocacy organizations, and groups that sponsor continuing medical education.

MedPAC defined payments to include gifts, food, honoraria, research, funding for education and conferences, consulting fees, investment interests, and product royalties. The plan would exclude discounts, rebates, and free samples for patients from the reporting requirements. Manufacturers would be required to report payments to individuals that exceed $100 annually. The group recommended that the threshold be adjusted each year according to inflation.

MedPAC suggested that federal law should pre-empt state payment-disclosure laws if they are equally or less stringent. A new law establishing reporting requirements should allow manufacturers to report clarifying information about payments and include the authority to assess civil penalties on manufacturers that do not comply according to MedPAC.

A national database on physician payments could discourage inappropriate arrangements, bring needed public oversight, and help patients and plans decide whether industry ties affect physicians’ practice patterns, according to MedPAC. The organization acknowledges, however, that a database would not eliminate conflicts of interest and might discourage beneficial physician–manufacturer arrangements.

MedPAC is an independent agency established in 1997 to advise Congress about issues that affect the Medicare program. The recommendations were originally made in the group’s June 2008 report to Congress. The entire report is available here.

For more about legislation to establish reporting requirements for payments from industry to physicians, see “Bill Calls for Disclosure of Drug-Company Gifts to Doctors.”