The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should create an easily usable and searchable database when it publishes information from drug and device makers about payments to physicians, according to comments (PDF) submitted by the Association of Health Care Journalists on proposed rules for carrying out the Physician Payment Sunshine Act.
The act will open a window on financial relationships between physicians and industry. Starting in 2013, pharmaceutical and device manufacturers must report to CMS any “transfer of value” worth more than $10 to a physician, and CMS will post the information online.
“Overall, we believe your regulations would faithfully enact the provisions of the Payment Sunshine Act,” AHCJ President Charles Ornstein wrote. “To serve its purpose, the information must be easily accessible to anyone who wants to know about an individual doctor or doctors in a community, as well as for researchers and reporters seeking a larger view.”
The law comes in response to growing concerns that industry payments to doctors can skew prescribing decisions and encourage use of brand-name drugs.
AHCJ made several specific recommendations: provide unique identifiers for each physician, note when a company updates its information, include gifts of textbooks and educational materials in the reporting requirements, and include partial data from 2012.
Additionally, the association noted that because the law applies exclusively to physicians, companies do not have to disclose payments to nurse practitioners and physician assistants. AHCJ urged CMS to consider reporting payments to non-physician prescribers who work in group practices with physicians.
The Pew Prescription Project has a collection of documents about the Physician Payment Sunshine Act.