NEWS16 July 2009

Researchers to meet US legislators over physician payment laws

Government North America

US— A series of meetings between researchers and federal legislators are being planned for August as part of continuing efforts to secure an exemption for survey incentives from physician payment disclosure laws.

The summer sit-downs are being co-ordinated by the Marketing Research Association (MRA) as senators and congressman return from the capitol to their home states.

Researchers will be hoping to convince their representatives to exclude survey incentives from the disclosure requirements of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, under which doctors will have to disclose gifts they receive from drugs companies and medical device manufacturers.

Such gifts are assumed to be buying influence on behalf of the manufacturers. If the market research industry can secure such an exemption at the federal level, it would pre-empt the 20 or so similar bills currently being debated at the state-level.

Minnesota and Massachusetts have already passed physician payment disclosure rules, while a recently passed law in Vermont bans gifts altogether. The Vermont law doesn’t specifically include survey incentives, but the MRA said the scope of the definition of ‘marketing’ is broad enough to encompass payments for participation in marketing research studies. Massachusetts, however, has said that survey incentives will not be subject to its public reporting requirements, provided healthcare practitioners who receive the payments do not know who sponsored the study and that the sponsor is unaware of who participated.

In Washington DC, the House and Senate are working on their own versions of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. Speaking to Research, the MRA’s director of government affairs Howard Feinberg said he was hopeful of securing an exemption for research from the Senate’s version of the act, however he said the odds seemed slimmer for the “more restrictive” House bill.