Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa today urged the White House to finalize the Physician Payments Sunshine Act regulations that will disclose the financial relationships between drug and medical device companies and doctors.
"Congress designed the law so that the data would be publicly available by Sept. 30, 2013," Grassley wrote to White House chief of staff Jacob Lew. "Unfortunately, the final regulations are now more than 15 months overdue. At best, the public may miss an entire year's worth of data collection -- perhaps more. This is unacceptable."
Grassley's letter continued, "I urge you to release these final rules without further delay. If the regulations are not going to be released by January 24, 2013, then please provide a date by which they will be issued and an explanation for the delay."
Grassley is the co-author, with then-Sen. Herb Kohl, of the bipartisan Physician Payments Sunshine Act, enacted in 2010. The legislation came after Grassley's investigative and oversight work that exposed numerous questionable financial relationships. For example, at Stanford University, the chairman of psychiatry received a federal grant to study a drug, while partially owning as much as $6 million in stock in a company that was seeking federal approval of that drug. After exposure, the federal government removed the individual from the grant.
At Harvard University, three professors failed to report almost a million dollars each in outside income while heading up several federal grants. In response to Grassley's oversight, Harvard revised the conflict of interest policies and conducted an internal investigation of these professors.
"It will be three years in March since the Sunshine Act was enacted," Grassley said. "Three years is a long time for pretty straightforward regulations. The Administration hasn't been forthcoming about the reasons for the delay. It should finalize the regulations as soon as possible. Letting the sun shine in and making information public is basic to accountability. The sooner we can properly implement this law, the sooner we can establish greater accountability for patients and consumers, especially with medical research."