Pharma companies ready to come clean on grant giving?

It seems some pharmaceutical and medical device companies are promising that they will soon voluntarily start making public the grants and monies they provide to doctors and nonprofit organizations for things such as conferences and continuing education seminars. For the pharma and medical device industries, the writing was on the wall: Start disclosing on your own or you might face new regulations that will require you to do so. There’s already proposed legislation by Sens. Charles Grassley and Herb Kohl requiring the industries to disclose things such as gifts, payments and travel provided to doctors. Kevin Freking writes about it for the Associated Press in his story, “Drug companies to reveal grant practices.” Freking writes that several companies decided to move toward disclosing grants after being surveyed by Grassley’s office. So what can we deduce from all this?

It’s a welcome step but it is still to be seen how many companies will follow through and to what extent they’ll do so. There’s also the question of whether this is just an attempt to undermine the Grassley-Kohl legislation. Freking talked to Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of the Health Research Group at Public Citizen.

“If they were doing this out of the goodness of their heart, they would have done so decades ago,” said Dr. Peter Lurie of the consumer group Public Citizen.

The story also helps us draw our own conclusions about some patient advocacy groups such as the American Heart Association, which the AP story notes receives about 6 percent of its annual income, about $48.3 million in the last fiscal year, from pharmaceutical companies.

Now, I believe the American Heart Association does some great work but it’s interesting to note that when the Vytorin dustup happened back in January, it was the American Heart Association that was quick to come to defense of the drug makers. A little transparency always does wonders for your perspective.