Studies have found that when doctors accept payments from drug companies, it can influence their treatment decisions—so the Obama administration will soon require drug companies to disclose those payments. The New York Times reports that around 25% of doctors receive cash from drug companies for consulting, speaking engagements, and more; in addition, almost two-thirds accept staff lunches or dinners out. The new requirements, part of the new health care law, will ensure that such payments and gifts, even small ones, are disclosed on a website; drug companies will be subject to fines for any omissions.
Research has found that such payments—which sometimes reach into the millions of dollars—can encourage doctors to recommend more expensive drugs and devices, driving up health care costs. The Times also found that doctors who take the money are more likely to give risky prescriptions. Consumer advocates and some lawmakers have been calling for these new standards in order to increase transparency and ensure that doctors are truly prescribing based on the patient's best interests. Some opponents, however, argue that the new requirements could dissuade doctors from consulting with drug companies and, says one, "such reluctance could chill innovation." (Read more doctors stories.)