New Rule Will Require Physicians to Disclose Gifts

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Physicians will soon be required to disclose any and all income from pharmaceutical companies that pay them for research, consulting, travel and entertainment. The rule, part of the Affordable Care Act, will go into effect sometime after a public comment period, which wraps up on Feb. 17.

The New York Times reports this morning that some doctors pocket "thousands or millions of dollars" in exchange for providing advice and giving lectures on behalf the drug companies. According to the Times, about a quarter of doctors take cash payments from drug or device makers and nearly two-thirds accept routine gifts of food, including lunch for staf members and dinner for themselves.

The Times also found that doctors who take money from drug makers "often practice medicine differently from those who do not, and that they are more willing to prescribe drugs in risky and unapproved ways, such as prescribing powerful antipsychotic medicines for children."

But the new reforms, part of what some critics have dubbed Obamacare, will require doctors to disclose the drug company payments, and the federal government will post the payment data on a website, where it will be available to the public. The rule says physicians will have to report any payment worth more than $10, including stock options, research grants, knickknacks, consulting fees, travel and any similar corporate gift-giving.