Vantage Point: Physician Payment Sunshine Act

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When the Pharmaceutical Marketing Research Group (PMRG) engaged a firm to help craft necessary exclusionary language in the recently passed healthcare reform bill, we ultimately saved an unintended consequence from becoming law.

The problematic language was found in the Physician Payment Sunshine Act (PPSA), now part of the healthcare reform act. The bill was written to reduce undue influence on, and expose potential conflict of interest among, physicians by requiring disclosure of payments or gifts of value from pharmaceutical and medical device companies to HHS.

Disclosing the names of the participating physicians would risk exacerbating the marketing abuses PPSA was trying to prevent in the first place. Marketing research never intends to influence the behavior of clinicians by providing an incentive for participation to share their beliefs, practices or opinions.

Clearly this was an unintended consequence that needed to be resolved. The language we sought ensures that payments do not trigger disclosure reporting, if the research is conducted by a third party, and that the sponsoring company does not know the physician's identity.

Multiple in-person meetings throughout 2009 with Senate and House staff members allowed us to educate and clarify key differences between marketing research and promotion.

Since the act's language does not pre-empt state language, however, our mission in the short term is to work with legislators and policymakers to exclude marketing research from similar payment disclosure bills pending in their states.

Bill Little is president of Delta Marketing Dynamics and chair of the PMRG Government Affairs Committee

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