Merck pays 2,000-plus docs $20.4M for speaking

Merck's stable of doctor-speakers is more than 2,000 strong--and accounted for $20.4 million in payments last year, MarketWatch reports. The drugmaker posted the payment information on its website, adding to previous payment disclosures for the second half of 2009.

It's the latest disclosure in Merck's program to increase transparency, and comes amid similar disclosures from other drugmakers--some voluntary, like Merck's, and some ordered by the U.S. government as part of marketing settlements. Beginning next year, a government disclosure mandate takes effect, requiring drugmakers to collect data on their payments to doctors and report that info to the feds beginning in 2013.

"We're continuing to disclose on a voluntary basis," Merck spokesman Ron Rogers told the news service. "As the requirements from the government come out, then we'll adapt our processes and systems so we'll be in full compliance."

Merck's new figures don't include speakers who worked on behalf of Schering-Plough, which Merck bought in late 2009. Rogers said that Merck is still working to integrate the data on Schering's doc payments.

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