Minneapolis medical device maker Medtronic Inc. has added itself to a growing list of health-care companies that promise to be more transparent about their payments to doctors.
Medtronic said it would begin on Jan. 1, 2010, to gather information about consulting fees, royalties and honoraria — such as compensation for speeches — made to doctors.
Consulting fees include those for education or training, clinical trial design and administration, and product design and safety. The company said its first disclosure report about payments that add up to $5,000 or more to any physician next year would be issued in March 2011 at its Web site.
“Relationships between industry and doctors are essential to innovation, education and training in our industry,” said Bill Hawkins, the company’s chairman and chief executive, in a press release. “Through greater transparency about the nature of these relationships, we will help people better understand how important they are to developing life-saving and enhancing products for patients who need them.”
In August, Medtronic took its first step toward public transparency by launching a registry of donations the company makes (pdf) to customers or organizations affiliated with customers.
Medtronic said it supports the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, proposed in January by Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. The legislation would require medical device makers to publicly disclose payments to physicians for their inventions and help in product development, research and training.
Grassley and Kohl have pushed companies like Medtronic toward transparency by exposing millions of dollars of payments to doctors, according to the Wall Street Journal Health Blog. The company also has been accused of paying kickbacks to doctors who use its products, the Health Blog has said.
Other companies that have announced similar transparency measures include Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, according to the blog.
In December, the Cleveland Clinic said it had begun reporting the business ties its staff doctors and researchers have with medical device and drug makers. These disclosures can be found by searching for individual doctors or researchers in the Clinic’s online staff directory.
At the time, it was the latest step in the Clinic’s efforts to deal with potential conflicts-of-interest revealed by news media several years ago.
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