Arms twisted, pharma promises disclosure

Pharma knows that self-regulation is the best kind. That's why 12 drug and device makers have promised Sen. Chuck Grassley that they are working on plans to disclose CME grants. You know, the money companies spend to sponsor educational conferences for doctors--conferences where sponsors sometimes influence not only who speaks, but what those speakers say. Some companies are even pledging to disclose their support of patient groups such as the American Heart Association or the American Diabetes Association.

Eli Lilly already discloses its CME funding. In response to Grassley's prodding, Medtronic and AstraZeneca said they'd post payments for professional meetings and patient-advocacy groups on their company websites, beginning May 1 and August 1, respectively. Merck said it's "developing an action plan." Amgen and Abbott Labs have formed working groups to study the subject.

Only Schering-Plough balked. "We do not publish or have plans at the moment to publish a list of charitable contributions or educational grants that medical organizations have received from us," the company wrote Grassley. We'll see if that refusal stands.

- see the Los Angeles Times story
- check out the item in the WSJ Health Blog

ALSO: According to California's Public Interest Research Group, disclosure of doctor payments isn't working to enforce limits on those gifts. A new report on these payment limits concluded that drugmakers don't always count meals as "gifts," that some companies reserve the right to exceed the limits if they choose to, and others say they're following limits, but don't say what their limits are. Some don't even post their policies. Study

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