Opinion

Bringing Sunshine into the Light

New information related to physician-industry interaction is scheduled to be released to the public for the first time on September 30.  The public database from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which is part of the Sunshine Act implementation, will focus on payments that biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies have made to physicians. Although the release date is less than six weeks away, concerns about what the data will look like and its effect on medical innovation are already being brought to light by stakeholders across the board.

One of the primary concerns that PhRMA shares with more than two dozen other patient and industry organizations is that the data needs to include context to explain what the payments represent – collaborations that benefit patient health and innovation. It’s critical to note that the new database will include information on many different types of interactions. For example, the data could reflect an oncologist partnering with a biopharmaceutical company to lead a clinical trial on an innovative cancer treatment or a family practice physician’s attendance at an industry-sponsored speaking event led by a peer to further her education about geriatric care. However, if the data released includes only names and numbers, the public is likely to be confused and the information is left subject to misinterpretation.

Additionally, many physicians are not aware about the Sunshine Act, what it means for them and their ability to be part of this collaborative process. It is important for CMS to provide physicians with more information about their ability to register and review data reported on them.

To compound this lack of information, physicians also face a confusing registration process with a very short timeline.  Given how instrumental relationships between companies and physicians are to driving future innovation, we want to ensure that both groups can provide input on the process of Sunshine Act reporting.

PhRMA has been vocal in its support of the Sunshine Act and has continually encouraged CMS to include all parties, from physicians, patients, teaching hospitals to biopharmaceutical and medical technology companies, to ensure the success of its implementation. We believe that ethical interactions between companies and physicians are essential to maintaining patient trust and promoting innovation in medical care, and we support the Sunshine Act principles because they are complementary to this belief.  Additionally, it has great potential for helping patients understand the ways in which collaboration between physicians and companies benefit patient care and medical innovation.

As Sunshine Act attention increases in the coming weeks, it is imperative that patients consider the incredible value derived from collaboration between physician and companies on research and clinical trials, the opportunity for physicians to provide feedback to companies on new medicines and surgical equipment, and the ability of physicians to talk with leading experts in the field about new treatments, studies and emerging safety information.

One way PhRMA is helping educate physicians, patients and industry stakeholders about the Sunshine Act is through its involvement in the Partners for Healthy Dialogues. The coalition encourages a proactive, positive conversation about ethical and transparent collaborations between health care professionals and biopharmaceutical companies, and we hope more stakeholders will join us as we near this important fall milestone.

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