Merck will soon become the largest drug company to post its payments to doctors online in the wake of costly lawsuits in which such payouts have become a big issue.
Richard Clark, chairman and chief executive of the second-largest US drugs group by sales, told the Financial Times that “the system needs to be totally transparent.” He also questioned whether there was a need for an annual ceiling on payments.
The group will begin publishing regular details in the fourth quarter.
His comments mark the latest escalation in efforts by drugs companies scrambling to seize the initiative on reforms to a system that has come under intense criticism for potential conflicts of interest, triggering growing legislative and regulatory pressure for change.
Critics claim tens of millions of dollars a year paid by drug companies in consultancy, speaking and writing fees as well as free drug samples given to influential doctors and medical academics are leading to prescriptions of medicines that are not justified by scientific evidence.
Merck isn't the first to do this Eli Lilly has alread set up its online registry, listing some $22 million (US) in payouts to 3.400 doctors and researchers in the first quarter. It was required to make the information publc after a $1.4-billion settlement in January over illegal promotion of its anti-psychotic drug Zy-prexa.
I took a quick look through the Lilly list. It's a bit overwelming. The doctors and researchers are listed alphabetically. The list is searchable, but it can be tough to find information unless you've got a good idea of what you're looking for.
The registry only includes US doctors, howsever, so there are no Canadians listed.
The Boston Globe, however, has used the list to find 60 Massachusetts doctors who received payments from Lilly.
At least 60 Massachusetts doctors collectively have earned more than a half-million dollars this year as speakers paid by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. - including two Boston Medical Center physicians whose participation is being reviewed for possible violation of a hospital policy against marketing activities by its doctors.
After learning of the doctors’ company-sponsored talks from the Globe, Boston Medical Center said it would investigate the matter and directed the physicians not to make any further presentations on behalf of Lilly in the meantime