Senator To Propose Bill To Create Registry of Drug Firm Payments
Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) last week said he would introduce legislation that would require drug makers to make public payments to any physician who bills Medicare and Medicaid programs, the New York Times reports.
Other lawmakers also support such a federal registry, and several states -- including Minnesota, Vermont and Maine -- have state-level registries.
In an investigation into physician payments by drug makers, Grassley contacted universities that require academic researchers to disclose industry payments. He found that the universities did not verify the payment amounts researchers claimed. In addition, they did not make the information public, according to the Times.
"So if there is a doctor getting thousands of dollars from a drug company -- payments that might be affecting his or her objectivity -- the only people outside the pharmaceutical industry who will probably ever know about this are the people at that very university," Grassley said.
However, John Bentivoglio, a lawyer who represents drug makers, said that payment disclosures might be misinterpreted and that they would be a burden for the industry. "One of the concerns is that these payments are seen as bribes," Bentivoglio said, adding, "The vast majority are lawful payments for services."
In a speech on the Senate floor Thursday, Grassley cited the case of the University of Cincinnati's Melissa DelBello, a child psychiatrist who made $180,000 in just over two years from AstraZeneca for work on the antipsychotic drug Seroquel, which now is widely used in children (Harris, New York Times, 8/4).