When Congress passed the health care reform legislation in 2010, it included the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which requires biopharmaceutical manufacturers to report (and make public) annual payments made to physicians. Under this law, payments or “transfers of value” under $10 would not be reportable if the aggregate spend for the calendar year was less than $100. Once that threshold is reached, all payments are reportable. Many companies have put forth the effort to set up systems that allow them to begin posting payment information to their websites well before the federal mandated timeframes. Others are working diligently to get systems in place to allow them to meet the Jan. 1, 2012, compliance date. This has been no small feat for these companies, as current company systems are not organized around the necessity to report information this way.
“Transparency” became the buzzword in the past several years, due in part to Senator Chuck Grassley’s, R-Iowa, efforts. Grassley, along with Senator Herb Kohl, D-Wis., began proposing “Sunshine Act” legislation in 2007, which eventually became law in 2010. Although it’s accepted that biopharmaceutical companies have bona fide business reasons for engaging with physicians, Grassley and others believe shining a light on these business relationships will allow patients to be better informed in managing their relationships with physicians. It’s not entirely clear at this point whether patients will use this information or find it valuable. Some investigative journalists have begun to conduct analyses of the data that has been made public thus far, resulting in increased media interest about payments to physicians.