BALTIMORE––If you accept payments from manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies, that information will be shared with the public, thanks to the Sunshine Act.
The law was built into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was released in 2010. It is part of a broader trend toward payers wanting to see more transparency of the interaction between physicians and industry. It follows the release of Medicare claims data showing how much Medicare pays physicians for various services.

Lauren K. Roth, assistant general counsel for the industry group PhRMA, presented information on the Sunshine Act at the Renal Physicians Association's annual conference here. She said the Act uses “broadly defined” wording to constitute what might be considered a payment between a physician and a company.
The Sunshine Act requires “applicable manufacturers” and “group purchasing organizations” to report to the Federal government any “payments or transfers of value” made to “covered recipients” (i.e., physicians and teaching hospitals).

Applicable manufacturers are entities that operate in the United States and either 1) produce at least one “covered product” (basically, any prescription drug, device, biological or medical supply that is eligible for payment by Medicare, Medicaid, or CHIP), or 2) operate under common ownership with a manufacturer and provide assistance or support in the manufacture, marketing, promotion, sale or distribution of a covered product, explained Roth.

  • Payment or transfer of value means “a transfer of anything of value,” although there are a few exclusions. Manufacturers must associate reportable payments with one of the following “nature of payment” categories:Compensation for services other than consulting, including serving as faculty or as a speaker at an event other than a continuing education program
  • Compensation for serving as faculty or as a speaker for an accredited or certified continuing education program
  • Compensation for serving as faculty or as a speaker for an unaccredited and non-certified continuing education program
  • Current or prospective ownership or investment interests
  • Space rental or facility fees (teaching hospital only)
  • Consulting fees
  • Honoraria
  • Gifts
  • Entertainment
  • Food and beverages
  • Travel and lodging
  • Education [including reprints]
  • Research
  • Charitable contributions
  • Royalties or licenses
  • Grants

Reprints of articles, for example, that are provided to physician offices could be considered an open payment. If you are running for political office, and a pharmaceutical company donates to your campaign, that is considered a payment.

The CMS Open Payments website includes the first reporting period from August-December 2013, covering 546 physicians. Future reports are due to be published every year in June and will include a full 12 months of payment data from the previous year. March 31 is the deadline each year for manufacturers to submit information on open payments to physicians.

In the initial report, open payments varied widely; the lowest was $483.53, while the highest was $2.4 million paid to a physician from a medical device manufacturer.
Visit the CMS open payments website at http://www.cms.gov/openpayments/