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Information Disclosure and the Physician Payments Sunshine Act

Information Disclosure and the Physician Payments Sunshine Act To the Editor: Three key elements of a fair information-disclosure process are specificity and clarity about what information will be requested and posted, review by individuals of draft data about themselves, and a clear and timely appeal and correction process. In areas as diverse as personal income taxes and ethics disclosures for government officials, these principles are typically followed. Unfortunately, in the development of Web sites disclosing financial relationships of physicians, physicians' rights have been ignored and remained unaddressed by Drs Carpenter and Joffe.1 In an era in which personal information is posted publicly and, given Internet caches and search engines, is sometimes irrevocable, physicians should be entitled to some safeguards. They should be informed of disclosure and what will be included before posting, especially personal information such as addresses or other identifying information. This is important so physicians can choose ahead of time whether they want to participate in given activities. Physicians should also be notified of the amounts of the posting before release to review for accuracy. Because this information is already being gathered, it should be made available to the physician. One option would be to make a password-protected version of the Web site for the physician to review before public launch. Finally, processes for correction should be clear and easy to find and have a time frame in which the disclosure can be evaluated and corrected. In a review of pharmaceutical company Web sites identified by ProPublica as currently disclosing payments to physicians (Pfizer, Viiv, Eli Lilly, Johnson and Johnson [Centocor, Tibotec, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen], GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, AstraZeneca, Cephalon, and Allergan) performed in June 2011, none of these principles could be identified.2 There was no specific posted information about correction processes or contacts for physicians. Only Novartis listed a mechanism to review disclosure data for error, which starts with a request in written form. It commits to a response within 30 days. Public figures, such as celebrities and politicians, knowingly give up privacy in exchange for their public roles.3 Physicians are not public figures and therefore should not be subject to invasions of privacy on any Web site containing disclosure information, including on the federal Web site proposed under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, without some assurances. Since the posted information on such Web sites may be subject to media and public scrutiny, I believe the people whose reputations are being evaluated in a public forum should be protected by a fair and accurate process. Back to top Article Information Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest. Dr Kimball reported serving on the Partners Health Care Committee on Conflicts of Interest; being an investigator or steering committee member for Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Centocor; and being a consultant for Novartis. She also reported having been a speaker for Johnson and Johnson, having received fellowship funding from Centocor, and previously having been a consultant for Lilly. References 1. Carpenter D, Joffe S. A unique researcher identifier for the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. JAMA. 2011;305(19):2007-200821586717PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref 2. Pharma companies' payments and disclosures: comparison chart. ProPublica: journalism in the public interest. http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/companies. Accessed August 9, 2011 3. Arnheim M. The Handbook of Human Rights Law: an Accessible Approach to the Issues and Principles. London, UK: Kogan; 2004:139-140 http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png JAMA American Medical Association

Information Disclosure and the Physician Payments Sunshine Act

JAMA , Volume 306 (10) – Sep 14, 2011

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Publisher
American Medical Association
Copyright
Copyright © 2011 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.
ISSN
0098-7484
eISSN
1538-3598
DOI
10.1001/jama.2011.1298
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

To the Editor: Three key elements of a fair information-disclosure process are specificity and clarity about what information will be requested and posted, review by individuals of draft data about themselves, and a clear and timely appeal and correction process. In areas as diverse as personal income taxes and ethics disclosures for government officials, these principles are typically followed. Unfortunately, in the development of Web sites disclosing financial relationships of physicians, physicians' rights have been ignored and remained unaddressed by Drs Carpenter and Joffe.1 In an era in which personal information is posted publicly and, given Internet caches and search engines, is sometimes irrevocable, physicians should be entitled to some safeguards. They should be informed of disclosure and what will be included before posting, especially personal information such as addresses or other identifying information. This is important so physicians can choose ahead of time whether they want to participate in given activities. Physicians should also be notified of the amounts of the posting before release to review for accuracy. Because this information is already being gathered, it should be made available to the physician. One option would be to make a password-protected version of the Web site for the physician to review before public launch. Finally, processes for correction should be clear and easy to find and have a time frame in which the disclosure can be evaluated and corrected. In a review of pharmaceutical company Web sites identified by ProPublica as currently disclosing payments to physicians (Pfizer, Viiv, Eli Lilly, Johnson and Johnson [Centocor, Tibotec, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen], GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, AstraZeneca, Cephalon, and Allergan) performed in June 2011, none of these principles could be identified.2 There was no specific posted information about correction processes or contacts for physicians. Only Novartis listed a mechanism to review disclosure data for error, which starts with a request in written form. It commits to a response within 30 days. Public figures, such as celebrities and politicians, knowingly give up privacy in exchange for their public roles.3 Physicians are not public figures and therefore should not be subject to invasions of privacy on any Web site containing disclosure information, including on the federal Web site proposed under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, without some assurances. Since the posted information on such Web sites may be subject to media and public scrutiny, I believe the people whose reputations are being evaluated in a public forum should be protected by a fair and accurate process. Back to top Article Information Conflict of Interest Disclosures: The author has completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest. Dr Kimball reported serving on the Partners Health Care Committee on Conflicts of Interest; being an investigator or steering committee member for Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, and Centocor; and being a consultant for Novartis. She also reported having been a speaker for Johnson and Johnson, having received fellowship funding from Centocor, and previously having been a consultant for Lilly. References 1. Carpenter D, Joffe S. A unique researcher identifier for the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. JAMA. 2011;305(19):2007-200821586717PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref 2. Pharma companies' payments and disclosures: comparison chart. ProPublica: journalism in the public interest. http://projects.propublica.org/docdollars/companies. Accessed August 9, 2011 3. Arnheim M. The Handbook of Human Rights Law: an Accessible Approach to the Issues and Principles. London, UK: Kogan; 2004:139-140

Journal

JAMAAmerican Medical Association

Published: Sep 14, 2011

References