Merck CEO: "Totally transparent" on doc dollars

Merck chief Richard Clark (photo) says his company is making good on its promise to publish details of its payments to doctors. Clark told the Financial Times that Merck will launch its doc-disclosure list next quarter, adding that "the system needs to be totally transparent." And, the FT reports, Clark suggested there might be a need for an annual doc-payment cap.

Now that Merck is also on the verge of combining with Schering-Plough, it would be the largest company to launch doc disclosure. Together with Schering, Merck will be the second-biggest drugmaker in the world. No. 1 Pfizer has also pledged to start detailing its payments to doctors, but hasn't yet done so. Eli Lilly has already put its doc-payment database online--a requirement to do so was included in the big Zyprexa settlement in January--and so far has reported $22 million in payments to 3,400 doctors.

Financial relationships between physicians and pharma have come under increased scrutiny of late. Drugmakers promised voluntary disclosure even as lawmakers proposed legislation to make it mandatory. Disclosure measures are likely to end up as part of the overall U.S. healthcare reform package, experts say. One way or another, we'll soon be hearing lots more about the money changing hands.

- read the FT story