Legislation requiring drug companies to disclose payments that they make to physicians might not change physicians' prescribing practices, according to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, Reuters reports (Seaman, Reuters, 6/4).
Goals of the Research
Researchers wanted to gauge how certain transparency provisions in the federal health reform law might affect physician behavior (Stuart, CMIO, 5/30).
The federal health reform law's Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires drugmakers and medical device manufacturers to disclose all consulting fees, travel reimbursements, research grants and other gifts with values over $10 that they give to physicians and teaching hospitals. CMS said it would post the payment information on an easily searchable public website (iHealthBeat, 5/7).
For the study, researchers from the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Harvard University looked at Maine and West Virginia, both of which have enacted sunshine legislation requiring drugmakers to disclose payments to physicians.
Researchers then compared those two states with states that were demographically similar but did not have such laws in place (CMIO, 5/30).
Researchers tracked the prescribing of statin drugs and certain antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs (Reuters, 6/4). Both types of drugs are marketed heavily and can be substituted with similar therapies, according to CMIO (CMIO, 5/30).
According to the researchers, the study found that "there were negligible to small effects of the disclosure laws in Maine and West Virginia for both statins and SSRIs."
For example, when generic versions of the medications became available, the study found that prescriptions for brand-name statin drugs decreased by:
- 50.6% in Maine, which had a sunshine law in place; and
- 45.3% in Rhode Island, which did not have a sunshine law in place.
Researchers acknowledged that their study had several limitations.
They said that their results could have been affected by the fact that:
- The comparison states might have differed from the states with sunshine laws in unaccounted-for ways; and
- Analyzing prescriptions of brand-name drugs might not be the most effective way to gauge the effects of sunshine laws (Reuters, 5/4).