Should You Say Something?

Lauren Barnett, PharmCertify™ Compliance Specialist

We’ve all seen the headlines: “[insert state/city here] Doctor Paid thousands By the Drug Industry.” The reports tend to appear just after an update of Pro Publica data, or during a ratings sweeps period, and I can certainly understand why. Nothing is more titillating than knocking a revered person, like a doctor, down from his or her pedestal in the community with innuendo of unscrupulosity (see Don Henley’s song, “Dirty Laundry” for more details). In reading the articles over the last several months, I have noticed an interesting trend. When the paper or local television station reaches out to the named physicians for a comment, they either get no comment at all, or the doctor explains that he or she has dialed down the practice of accepting payments from pharmaceutical companies. I can’t say as I blame them.

With CMS finally publishing the rules for Sunshine, I’ve been thinking about the coming flood of information about what pharma, med device and bio companies spend on physicians, and what the publication of this information is going to mean to physicians. Back when the Sunshine Act was an annual legislative threat that most felt would pass, there was discussion among my colleagues about how (or if) we should discuss the matter with physicians. So, now that Sunshine is a reality with data collection to begin soon, I wonder: What are companies planning to do to inform healthcare providers about the Act?

Should this be something the industry should even tackle? Yes, I think so, in some small way anyway. The reports are coming from the industry, so educating the physicians on what will be reported and when the reports are due is warranted. That said, I think this would be a great topic for the OIG to tackle in its video training series, or perhaps they could reach out to CMS to help them provide similar training. Considering that the regulations couldn’t be published on time, I probably shouldn’t hold my breath, eh? The HCPs need to know about Sunshine and although there are number of articles about the Act on the AMA’s website, they’re not easy to find.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Should companies feel the need to educate physicians about the Sunshine Act? If you’re in industry, have you already done so, or do you have plans to provide materials explaining Sunshine and its ramifications to healthcare professionals in the future?

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