01/20/2012 - It took longer than expected, but the Obama administration is finally poised to enact badly needed regulations requiring that the manufacturers of drugs, medical devices and medical supplies disclose all payments they make to doctors or teaching hospitals. The information, which would be posted on a government Web site, will allow patients to decide whether they need to worry about any possible conflicts of interest.
Such payments can be for legitimate research and consulting. But there is also a lot of cash being spread around to pay for doctors’ travel and entertainment or for gifts or modest meals for a prescribing doctor’s staff.
As Robert Pear reported in The Times this week, some prominent doctors and researchers receive hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars a year in exchange for providing advice to a company or giving lectures on its behalf.
The new rules should give a welcome boost to otherwise spotty efforts by some companies, medical centers, scientific journals, states and ethical codes to eliminate, minimize or at least disclose financial interests that might cloud medical judgments. The existence of the Web site could deter some questionable payments. And it could help patients decide which doctors to rely on.
Read the full editorial, Who Else Is Paying Your Doctor?, on the New York Times' Web site.