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Drug companies will disclose relationships with physicians

Michigan residents should be able to expect that their doctors have their best interests in mind. Decisions about treatments should be made based on knowledge and expertise, and not any improper influences. However, from time to time doctors do receive gifts from drug companies and medical device companies, so how do we know that this does not create a dangerous conflict of interest or lead to medical malpractice?

Several years ago, the government attempted to make physicians and the various companies they work with more transparent about such relationships. The 2010 Physician Payment Sunshine Act required the disclosure of all financial links between physicians and pharmaceutical companies or medical manufactures. The law has been slow to go into effect, but in September 2014 a searchable database will be available for members of the public to research such information about their doctors.

Applicable manufacturers will now have to disclose information about payments and gifts they make to physicians. Gifts of less than $10--as long as they do not add up to more than $100 annually--do not need to be reported, and neither do coffee, snacks or buffet meals.

Manufacturers who fail to report gifts could reportedly see fines of anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000.

It is very important that patients are aware of any relationship between their physician and a pharmaceutical company or medical device company, and hopefully this new database will make such relationships more transparent. In some cases, conflicts of interests may result in misdiagnoses, inappropriate treatment or medication mistakes, so hopefully this database will prevent instances of such medical malpractice here in Michigan.

Source: amednews.com, "Public can see pharma payments to doctors starting in 2014," Charles Fiegl, Feb. 11, 2013

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