Congress mandates disclosure

What do drugmakers, medical schools, researchers, clinics and doctors have in common? They’re all under the same magnifying glass. And they’re all facing the prospect of Congress mandating the disclosure of their financial interrelationships.

In the meantime--and perhaps in an attempt to forestall lawmakers--several companies and institutions have either promised to start making their financial interrelationships public, or actually begun doing so. Eli Lilly started the parade of pharma companies making the doc-disclosure pledge, followed by Merck and GlaxoSmithKline. And together with AstraZeneca, the drugmakers are backing a bill requiring disclosure of payments to doctors exceeding $500. (Conveniently, the bill would pre-empt some state disclosure rules already in force; their disclosure-triggering amount is much lower.)

Lilly also led the field of drugmakers fessing up to sponsorship of continuing medical education. And at the prodding of Sen. Chuck Grassley, who's among those leading the charge for disclosure regulation, AstraZeneca pledged to start posting payments for professional meetings and patient advocacy groups on its company website, and several other drugmakers said they’d consider disclosing their sponsorships and educational grants. 

Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school and the Cleveland Clinic are in the vanguard of institutions that are launching databases of payments from pharma to doctors and researchers. Look for more of academia and prestige medicine to leap into the fray--and for more drugmakers to step up to the disclosure plate as well, even if Congress doesn’t force them to.