Sunshine

Sunshine

Here’s an interesting catch by Merrill Goozner:

“The House bill would create an internet accessible database that includes all health-related payments to physicians by corporations including gifts, food, or entertainment; travel or trips; honoraria; research funding or grants; education or conference funding; consulting fees; ownership or investment interests; and royalties or license fees. If I’m reading the bill correctly, it says anything over $5 must be reported. (From pg. 635 of the bill.)”

I believe the relevant section of the bill is 1451, and it does seem to say that. This is really good news. There is a lot of money sloshing around in health care. There are advisory boards, speakers’ bureaus, conferences conveniently held in beach resorts, educational (and “educational”) events, dinners courtesy of drug companies, gifts, etc., etc., etc. And that’s not counting things like industry-sponsored research.

A lot of this is just marketing, sometimes disguised and sometimes not. Making it public would have two very good effects. First, and most obviously, it would allow people to discover any conflicts of interest that their doctors might have. Second, it might shame people. If you’re an “opinion leader”, or in some other way a good catch for a company, it’s possible to get very considerable amounts of money from these sorts of things. If it came out that some doctors were getting, say, hundreds of thousands of dollars, not for doing research but for various marketing-esque activities, I suspect that those doctors might become less greedy.

And that would be a good thing. Most people don’t think that they would allow their judgment to be corrupted by something like a fancy dinner with a flattering sales rep, or even an all-expenses paid trip to an industry-sponsored conference at Waikiki. But there’s a fair amount of research that shows that accepting a gift from someone does affect your judgment, whether you’re aware of it or not. (Why else would pharmaceutical companies give all these gifts?)

Making these gifts public is an excellent thing. Good for the House committees for writing it into their bill.