Pfizer to report doctor payments

Pfizer is letting the sunshine in. The drugmaker says it will start disclosing all $500-plus payments to doctors and their ilk. That includes speaking fees, meals, travel expenses, textbooks, research support, consulting, and so on. "It's very important that we earn the trust of patients and the public," Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler told the Associated Press.

The company's disclosure plan comes on the heels of a newly introduced bill that would require drugmakers to report payments to doctors of $100 and above. And it follows promises from Merck and Eli Lilly to disclose some doc payments, such as consulting fees and honoraria.

But perhaps the key impetus is the spate of bad publicity about doctors failing to fess up about their financial relationships with drugmakers. Sen. Charles Grassley has hammered the issue repeatedly, demanding info from companies about their payments to doctors and vice-versa. Some high-profile researchers--such as the head of Emory University's psychiatry department--didn't disclose tens of thousands of dollars in payments from pharma. And surveys show the public has grown increasingly suspicious of the links between industry and their physicians.

Grassley called Pfizer's new policy--the first to include payments to clinical researchers--"a step in the right direction." Grassley's Physician Payments Sunshine Act, co-sponsored with Sen. Herb Kohl, would require payments of $100 and more to be reported, and includes penalties of up to $1 million for failing to do so.

- read the AP story