Pfizer to List Payments to Doctors

In an effort to make the relationships between itself and medical professionals more transparent, <"">Pfizer has announced that effective early 2010, it plans on disclosing most—not all—of the payments it makes to doctors and other health care practitioners in the United States, reported Reuters.  Pfizer will record payments in excess of $500 annually and will include meals costing over $25, said Bloomberg News.

PharmaFocus explained that payments can include clinical development and commercial consulting, promotional speaking, clinical trials, investigator-initiated research, meals, and non-monetary items.

Pfizer said it is taking this step in order to comply with the pending legislation as well as to help improve the perception of its products, partnerships, and working relationships, said Reuters, and will be detailing payments made for consulting, speaking engagements, and Phase I and IV clinical trials on its Website.  Last month, legislation was introduced in the Senate for the creation of a national registry of medical industry payments to physicians, said Bloomberg News.

“The public has a right to know what those relationships are,” said Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa-Republican), co-sponsor of the legislation, in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg News.  “Every step in the direction of disclosure is a step in the right direction and helps to build the case for passage of legislation to establish nationwide reporting of this kind of information.”

From a sales perspective, Pfizer is the largest drug maker worldwide and its trials can involve anything from initial-stage human trials to post-marketing and –approval trials, said Reuters.  Pfizer confirmed that, last year alone, it worked with nearly 8,000 clinical researchers in nearly 300 studies, with payments made to investigators and research centers, said Reuters.

Pfizer’s new plan does not cover payments made to certain medical journal article contributors, such as technical medical writers who do not prescribe medicines, but who are sometimes listed as authors of formal study findings, noted Reuters.  Pfizer explained that technical writers working for a clinical trial investigator may have his/her name mentioned in the piece’s acknowledgments section, but that this does not include monetary details, added Reuters.  Critics have long criticized the industry for permitting such writers to contribute to articles—often providing compelling arguments for a drug’s use—but who have not contributed to the actual trial.

Eli Lilly & Co, GlaxoSmithKline, and Merck & Co are among other major drug manufacturers which have also different types of financial disclosure for their payments to doctors, such as those for speaking or consulting fees said Reuters.

Bloomberg reported that nine of every 10 physicians in this country accept some sort of gift, for instance, lunch and free samples; however cardiac doctors—nearly twice as much as other physicians—accept cash payments.  The data is based on research conducted with 1,662 physicians in six specialties and the findings appeared in an April 2007 New England Journal of Medicine article.  Bloomberg also said that over one-third of those questioned received reimbursement for expenses from attending medical meetings or continuing education classes, and 28 percent were paid for consulting, speaking about specific medications, or serving on an advisory board.

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