Business Law

Ethical Issues related to the Physician Sunshine Act

The federal government, through the Sunshine Act of 1976 (also known as the “open meeting law”), requires most major administrative agencies to hold meetings that are open to the public. The purpose of the “open meeting” requirement is to bring agencies’ actions and conduct into public view, thereby preventing administrative misconduct. The theory is that open meetings allow and encourage public scrutiny, which serves to prevent and deter administrative misconduct. Similarly, the recently implemented Physician Sunshine Act strives to make public the financial link between certain drug manufacturers and physicians.

Pursuant to the Physician Sunshine Act, created under the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to, in the media, as “Obamacare”), manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and medical devices will be required to report the amount of money paid to doctors and hospitals by pharmaceutical companies. Disclosure is also required regarding the amount of stock doctors and their families own in these manufacturers’ companies. Drug manufacturers must file mandatory reports with the National Physician Payment Transparency Program at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Consider the reasons for passage of the Physician Sunshine Act.
Are all payments by pharmaceutical companies to doctors wrong?

What will patients gain through the ability to access information regarding their physicians’ financial relationships with pharmaceutical companies?

There are exceptions to the mandatory reporting requirements (such as gifts less than $10, educational materials for patient distribution and product samples). Why are these exceptions important?

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