Come 2013, drug companies in the $200 billion-plus pharmaceutical industry must start publicly disclosing gifts and payments to physicians.
That's a requirement of one of the most pro-consumer provisions of the federal health care legislation signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year.
Drug companies spend $30 billion annually on marketing, much of it directly aimed at physicians.
Patients have a right to know whether their physicians accept those payments -- not all do ---- and how much they get.
A preview of that information has been appearing at the investigative journalism website ProPublica.org. It's worth a visit for any consumer of medical services. The database is readily searchable by physician name, by city and more.
The New York-based ProPublica has identified 43 physicians who have earned more than $200,000 since 2009 in speaking and consulting fees from drug and medical device companies that are disclosing payments.
Three Californians are in the $200,000-plus club. Another 36 California doctors received payments of between $100,000 and $200,000. Scores of others have collected thousands or tens of thousands in payments.
The disclosures represent a fraction of drug company payments made to physicians. Only seven of the 70 pharmaceutical companies operating in the United States are making their payments public.
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