The Obama administration plans to establish new rules requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose the payments they make to doctors, according to the New York Times.
The new rules are being issued under the new health care law and will make pharmaceutical companies report money they have given to doctors for research, consulting, speaking, travel and entertainment. The payment data will be made available to the public online.
Companies that fail to comply with the new rule could be subject to a penalty up to $10,000 for each payment they fail to report.
The close relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical companies has been a concern for years. Drug companies have paid doctors up to $400 an hour to act as key opinion leaders and some doctors earn more than $25,000 a year in advisory fees.
Critics say this encourages doctors to over-prescribe medication and harms public health.
Doctors who take money from pharmaceutical companies are more willing to prescribe medication despite potential risks, according to an analysis by the Times.
In addition, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health found drugs that pharmaceutical companies marketed most aggressively to doctors tended to offer less benefits and more harm to patients.
“This is not a random occurrence, but rather a repeating, planned scenario in which drugs, discovered with good science for a specific set of patients, are marketed to a larger population as necessary, beneficial and safer than other alternatives,” Howard Brody, a professor and director of the Institute for the Medical Humanities at UTMB Health and co-author of the study, explained.
Another study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and University of Chicago failed to find evidence that atypical antipsychotic medication, a top-selling class of drugs, actually helped most patients. The study was published January 2011 in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.