"After years of seeing [the pharmaceutical industry's] reputation beaten down by report after report on the financial links between drug companies and the doctors who prescribe their products, Eli Lilly is stepping out as the first big company to try to get out ahead of the issue," wrote John Carroll, editor for industry newsletter FierceBiotech, in an email to Marketing Daily. "Meanwhile, look for other lawmakers to follow Massachusetts' lead in requiring more transparency--and more companies reading the writing on the wall and following Eli Lilly. This trend isn't going away."
The decision--announced by the company's president and chief executive officer, John Lechleiter at the Economic Club of Indiana-- was a move to help build consumer trust in the industry, which has been tarnished by reports of undisclosed links between doctors and pharmaceutical companies and other marketing practices. "As Lilly continues to look for more ways to be open and transparent about our business, we've learned that letting people see for themselves what we're doing is the best way to build trust," Lechleiter said in a statement.
The registry, which will be available to consumers via the Internet during the second half of 2009, will list payments of $500 or more made after Jan. 1. The registry will be updated annually to reflect the previous year's payment information. While details about how the registry will be promoted to consumers have not yet been worked out, company representative Edward Sagebiel said a media push and consumer awareness effort would be likely. "It's no use putting it out there if consumers can't get the information they need," Sagebiel says. "I can't imagine that we will not do everything possible to promote the site."
Last year, Sens. Charles Grassley and Herbert Kohl introduced the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which would require disclosure of physician payments of all medical device, medical supply and pharmaceutical companies. While that legislation is still pending, several states have begun to consider their own legislation requiring disclosure. Massachusetts, for instance, in August passed a law requiring disclosure of gifts worth more than $50.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) trade group has endorsed the Congressional legislation, provided the federal law pre-empts state laws. In a statement, the group said: "PhRMA believes that appropriate transparency in relationships between pharmaceutical research companies and physicians is an important ingredient and helps build and maintain trust by patients in the healthcare system."