Law puts small doc payments up for disclosure

It's official: Drugmakers will be required to report their payments to doctors, thanks to another provision of the healthcare reform bill. The payments will be aggregated into an annual, industry-wide report, with the first making its debut in 2013.

The disclosure law will cover even small gifts: Anything valued at more than $10 has to be reported. Cash payments of more than $10 also must be disclosed. And if individual gifts or payments of less than $10 add up over time to $100 or more, that has to hit the public record, too.

The new mandate comes after years of debate, and it follows several state laws that beat the federal provision to the punch. Furthermore, a number of drugmakers have already begun disclosing payment information--including Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck.

Just how might the new law change the modus operandi in pharma? Allan Coukell of the Pew Prescription Project tells the Wall Street Journal that companies might decide it's not worth it to give out tchotchkes, because they'd have to be tracked doctor-by-doctor, in case they eventually added up to $100.

More significantly, some doctors might back off a bit, taking less industry money, because they know that information will be open to public scrutiny, Coukell explains. "Research will continue, but with more promotional and market oriented [relationships], there may be some individuals who will decide to cut back," he adds.

- see the WSJ Health Blog post