Legislation Would Require Prescription Drug Makers To Disclose Payments Made To Physicians For Consulting

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Senate Finance Committeeranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) last week said he wouldintroduce legislation that would require drug makers to make publicpayments to any physician who bills Medicare and Medicaid programs, theNew York Timesreports. Other lawmakers also support such a federal registry, andseveral states -- including Minnesota, Vermont and Maine -- havestate-level registries.

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In an investigation into physicianpayments by drug makers, Grassley contacted universities that requireacademic researchers to disclose industry payments. He found that theuniversities did not verify the payment amounts researchers claimed. Inaddition, they did not make the information public, according to the Times."So if there is a doctor getting thousands of dollars from a drugcompany -- payments that might be affecting his or her objectivity --the only people outside the pharmaceutical industry who will probablyever know about this are the people at that very university," Grassleysaid.

However, John Bentivoglio, a lawyer who represents drugmakers, said that payment disclosures might be misinterpreted and thatthey would be a burden for the industry. "One of the concerns is thatthese payments are seen as bribes," Bentivoglio said, adding, "The vastmajority are lawful payments for services."

In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Grassley cited the case of the University of Cincinnati's Melissa DelBello, a child psychiatrist who made $180,000 in just over two years from AstraZeneca for work on the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, which now is widely used in children (Harris, New York Times, 8/4).
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