Ontario bill will reveal drug company payments to doctors
The legislation being introduced Wednesday will allow Ontarians to see if their doctors, dentists, pharmacists or others received money and gifts from Big Pharma.
Ontarians may soon know whether their doctor, dentist or pharmacist is getting money from Big Pharma.
Health Minister Eric Hoskins is introducing new legislation Wednesday that will require drug companies and medical device makers to publicly report cash payments, free dinners and other benefits they ve given to health-care professionals.
The payment information will be posted online in a searchable database and will be broken down by the name of the health-care professional who received it. Hoskins said the payment details will be for all 26 regulated health-care professions, from nurses to psychologists, as well as hospitals and other health-care organizations.
Critics of the payments say they raise the potential for conflicts of interest as they can influence doctors decisions on what drugs to prescribe.
Right now, there is little known on how much money or gifts actually pass hands from drug companies to Ontario s health professionals. These payments, known as transfers of value, can include grants for research, fees for speeches or participation on advisory committees and travel costs to attend far-flung conferences.
When these transfers of value take place they can have unintended consequences, Hoskins said. This isn t suggesting at all the transfers are inappropriate. It s important that the value and nature of those transfers . . . be made transparent.
I think there s been a big blind spot in our health system for a long time. This helps address that, said Dr. Andrew Boozary, who spearheaded a national Open Pharma campaign that called on the provincial and federal governments to require disclosure of payments from drug companies to doctors.
We needed to go further to really, truly serve the needs of Ontarians in a responsible way, Hoskins said.
This proposed legislation brings Ontario in line with countries such as Australia, Japan, France and the United States, which have mandatory disclosures on financial relationships between industry and doctors.
In the U.S., which began publicly releasing the payment details in September 2014, any cash or gift worth more than $10 must be disclosed.
The newly proposed legislation is deliberately silent on a threshold dollar amount that would require public disclosure.
We want something that is meaningful and fair and not overly onerous. There are a lot of differing opinions in terms of what that threshold should be, said Hoskins, adding that the issue would be addressed in further consultations.
Dr. Joel Lexchin, a long-time advocate of transparency, said he hopes the government sets a pretty low threshold, noting that studies out of the United States show that meals worth less than $20 can have an impact on doctor s prescribing practices.
The legislation in my view needs to be quite aggressive, he said.
There have been numerous controversies in Canada over perceived conflicts of interest because of payment relationships.
The Star found drug companies routinely host and bankroll dinners at upscale restaurants as training for family doctors. Critics of the dinners say they are just marketing tools under the guise of education.
And there have been other controversies over perceived conflicts of interest because of drug company involvement, including alleged altering or ghostwriting of medical studies and physician endorsements of drugs.
A patient should know if the company selling a medication paid the doctor writing the prescription. Patients ultimately pay for this marketing so they have a right to know where the money is going, he said.
We think that the increased transparency will help to promote more evidence-based care getting through to not just clinicians but to patients as well, she said.
Hoskins said he will be encouraging the federal minister of health, as well as his provincial and territorial counterparts, to follow Ontario s lead and pursue similar legislation.
I m proud Ontario has demonstrated that leadership, but just as Ontarians want and deserve this information and greater transparency and accountability, Canadians deserve and want that, as well.