While we all like the sun, life under the final rules for the “Sunshine Act” provisions of the Affordable Care Act is going to be complicated and treacherous for drug companies and their agencies. Publicizing names and industry incomes of our collaborating physicians on the federal website promises to create a PR burn for an industry already scorched by criticism.
We must meet the challenge by putting these relationships in context. Some critics think every financial relationship creates a dangerous conflict, but we know and must show that physician collaborations support appropriate, safe and effective use of medicines.
Anyone who wants to resist transparency should step aside to let others better manage, report and explain these relationships to a largely hostile public. Otherwise, we may lose much of the clinical education, research and medical innovation these relationships foster.
Industry must understand that some proponents of these registries want more than sunshine reports—they seek to ban many financial relationships that fuel medical collaboration.
Until the last few years, most publicity about payments to doctors took place in industry circles, via journal articles, seminars and hearings. More recent reporting, especially from ProPublica and its associated media outlets, is aimed largely at the public, with the apparent hope that patient pressure will cause doctors to discontinue industry relationships.
Much of the work to protect these collaborations must be done by us, our PR counselors and physician collaborators. The goodwill of doctors and patients gives us the chance to move into the sunshine without being burned. Let us proceed with swiftness and care.
John Kamp is executive director of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication.