Saturday, January 28, 2012

Some Welcome News

Another provision of "Obamacare" is about to kick in. It's not as dramatic as required coverage for pre-existing conditions and the opportunity to cover children over 18 on their parents plan, but it is still a very helpful one. It's also one that didn't get much publicity at the time Congress was considering the bill, although I am sure the lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies were busy trying to scuttle it. Fortunately, they failed.

The provision requires that pharmaceutical and medical device companies report most of the gifts and payments made to doctors. Free samples of medication are excluded from the reporting requirement, but free lunches and free trips to exotic places for "seminars" are not.

From a Los Angeles Times editorial:

The proposed regulations, which are going through a period of public comment, are appropriately strict in ways that would both protect patients and reduce medical costs. The payments and gifts would be available on a searchable public website. Free samples of drugs would be exempt from reporting, but otherwise, anything worth more than $10 total for the year would have to be disclosed. ...

Physicians who received research funding and other payments from pharmaceutical companies have sat on advisory boards for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and have recommended drugs made by those companies. A survey published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2010 found that 71% of doctors had accepted food from drug companies, and that doctors who took payments were more likely to prescribe those companies' expensive brand-name medications rather than cheaper generics. ...

The provision does not ban such payments outright, but it does require reporting, which is a very healthy beginning. Even if patients don't flock to the website before making their decisions on a newer drug or a particular device, it's at least available.

In other words, the website will be a force for good even if few patients examine it. Watchdog organizations and news reporters will use it. For many doctors and pharmaceutical companies, the knowledge that their actions will be held up to public light is enough to curb the potentially troubling behavior.

Exactly so.

And the change is long overdue.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home