Johnson & Johnson to Disclose Payments to Doctors

Earlier this year we wrote that Johnson & Johnson was facing charges that it paid kickbacks to Omnicare, one of the nation’s largest nursing home chains, in order to push drugs like <"">Risperdal and <"">Levaquin at the chain’s facilities. Now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the drug giant is, for the first time, disclosing payments made to physicians.

Although the move is likely being made to increase information about the drug maker’s marketing strategy practices, The Journal notes that finding information on Johnson & Johnson’s Website might take some hunting. For instance, payments on individual doctors does not appear in one place but appears across no less than three reports on Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical unit’s operating companies’ Websites. Also, pointed out The Journal, public disclosure or the total numbers indicating what was spent and how many doctors were paid is not being provided by Johnson & Johnson, although other drug makers have listed this information.

“It’s not all in one place,” said Allan Coukell, director of the Pew Prescription Project, a group that has fought for broader disclosure of industry’s payouts to doctors, said The Journal. “We would have rather seen the multiple Johnson & Johnson sites consolidated into one. That said, I give them credit for doing what they’ve done. We applaud any company that takes voluntary steps towards this kind of disclosure,” quoted The Journal.

Mark Wolfe, a Johnson & Johnson spokesman said that the firm’s pharmaceutical divisions have been posting doctor names and amounts paid on a variety of Johnson & Johnson Websites beginning June 30 and covering payments made the first three months of 2010, wrote The Journal.

According to Johnson & Johnson information, payments it made to doctors from its Ortho-McNeil-Janssen unit totaled $1.76 million, said The Journal, which noted the calculations were made by Obsidian HDS LLC, an aggregator of physician-payment data. Johnson & Johnson’s Cento or Ortho Biotech unit total payout was $658,111 and the total paid out by the Tribute unit was $433,250, according to The Journal calculations.

We’ve long been saying so, and the issue has made headlines many times in recent months regarding the ties between Big Parma and health professionals, with many complaining that the transparency between the two is not sufficiently broad and point to a potential bias in which patients are often not the prime concern.

Drug makers, pointed out The Journal, pay physicians, researchers, and other health care professionals to consult on “research, safety surveillance, and other matters, and to speak to other doctors about uses of its products,” explained The Journal.

Meanwhile, a new health-care overhaul law mandates prescription drug and medical device makers to report payout information to the government, noted The Journal. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will take the information, consolidate the data, and publicize it via the Internet; annual reporting must begin in 2013, said The Journal.

Johnson & Johnson, Eli Lilly & Co., Pfizer Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC, Merck & Co., and Cephalon Inc. are among the drug makers that have begun posting information, although some have been mandated under settlement terms of government probes, wrote The Journal.

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