Disclosing drug makers payments to docs gets boost

By KEVIN FREKING, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Legislation that would require prescription drug makers to disclose payments to doctors got a boost Tuesday when Eli Lilly and Co. broke ranks with the industry and endorsed the bill.

Lawmakers gained Eli Lilly’s support after they agreed to raise the payment limit requiring disclosure from $25 to $500. The lawmakers also agreed to apply the legislation to all drug and medical device makers. Previously, the proposed disclosures would have applied only to companies with more than $100 million in annual revenue.

The legislation addresses concerns that payments, such as picking up the tab for dinner or paying travel expenses for a conference at an exotic locale, can influence a doctor’s prescribing habits. The legislation doesn’t ban the payments, but it does require that companies report them, beginning March 31, 2011.

The legislation would pre-empt laws in the few states that already require drug makers to disclose their payments to doctors.

John C. Lechleiter, Eli Lilly’s president and CEO, said the pre-emption was an important addition to the bill.

“This helps patients, businesses and doctors alike by setting expectations and creating a more efficient system for gathering, reporting and understanding such data,” Lechleiter said.

Last year, the company was the first drug maker to publicly report all of its educational grants and charitable contributions.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and top Democratic co-sponsor, Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, said Eli Lilly’s endorsement shows “transparency’s time has come.”

“Transparency brings about accountability and benefits everyone, consumers most of all,” Grassley said.

The lawmakers are pressing to get provisions of The Physician Payments Sunshine Act into a bill later this year that would prevent payment cuts to doctors caring for Medicare patients.

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