New England Journal of Medicine reports the following about transparency in the market:
On September 6, 2007, Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), the ranking member of the Committee on Finance, and Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act — so named because it aims to “shine a much needed ray of sunlight on a situation that contributes to the exorbitant cost of health care,” according to cosponsor Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). The bill would require manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices with annual revenues of more than $100 million to disclose the amount of money they give to physicians — whether in the form of a free dinner or vacation or a consulting fee. “This bill is about letting the sun shine in so that the public can know,” says Grassley.
The move was stimulated in part by activity in Minnesota and Vermont, which have made the reporting of such relationships mandatory — Minnesota in 1993 and Vermont in 2003. Three additional states (Maine, West Virginia, and California) and the District of Columbia have now enacted similar disclosure laws, and many other states are considering doing so. Although beliefs vary widely about the overall usefulness of the data collected under state mandates, the movement toward increased transparency is gaining steam.
Some transactions are proprietary, some are not. A more benign form of government interference is a call for more transparency…the payments are not forbidden, just announced. Let the public decide and the doctor explain.