Every Slice of Drug-Rep Pizza Counts Starting Aug. 1

August 01, 2013

Today marks a new era in the relationship between physicians and the drug and device makers that give them consulting fees, honoraria for presentations, and lunches for the office staff.

From now on, companies must keep track of virtually every payment and gift bestowed on each clinician and report them to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which will report them to the world.

This accounting exercise stems from a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that seeks to expose the financial dealings between industry and physicians and discourage conflicts of interest for the latter that might skew education, research, and clinical decision-making. Under the ACA provision, called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, drug and device makers must report any "transfer of value" of $10 or more made to a physician. Transfers of value under $10 — a cup of coffee, say — aren't reportable unless they add up to more than $100 in a year. Companies also must disclose whether physicians have any ownership stake in them.

The record-keeping starts today, so yesterday's drug-rep pizza doesn't count, but today's does. The Sunshine Act requires CMS to post the totals for each physician online by September 30, 2014.

Physicians have no legal duty to keep a tally of industry payments and gifts, but they may want to anyway. The Sunshine Act allows them to contest the dollar amounts that drug and device makers submit to CMS, especially if they think the numbers are inflated. Some medical societies fear that inaccurate information published by CMS could jeopardize the careers of their members.

In light of that worry, CMS released a free mobile app last month that physicians can use to record cash and in-kind payments from industry.

More information on the Sunshine Act, including the mobile app, is available on the CMS Web site.

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