Payment Disclosure Bill is a Good First Step, but More is Needed

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From The Globe and Mail: Ontario’s newly proposed physician-payment disclosure law is an important first step in the direction of improved health care and increased informed consent. However, this bill is not enough; we need further legislation to fully address the issue of the pharmaceutical industry’s influence on healthcare.

“Transparency of gifts, payments or other benefits to doctors will not be enough. Even health-care providers who choose to keep the industry at arm’s length cannot escape influence, which is why the health-care professions should support a broad regulatory framework. For example, there is overwhelming evidence that many articles on new drugs and medical devices in leading medical journals are ghostwritten by product manufacturers. These articles influence prescription behaviour and professional guidelines. Industry payments further influence doctors’ continuing education, finance think tanks and professional societies, and help select speakers at medical conferences. Health-care providers do not have the time in their day to unravel these complex ways that companies seek to influence them. That’s why the money funding these practices needs to be brought to light, so that they can be studied and analyzed by media, civil society and policy analysts.

We hope that Ontario will also impose transparency on payments to marketing companies, professional societies, companies that provide education, and patient advocacy groups. Health-care providers should know if a company paid to write a medical article, funds a group they might join, or helps pay for a speaker at a conference or meeting. And we all need to know if a patient advocate extolling the benefits of a drug or medical device and pushing for getting a drug approved or funded is secretly receiving money from a company.”

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