Transparency seems to be the word of the week. Earlier this week Vice President Joe Biden claimed the American public would see total transparency when it came to tracking every penny of the recently passed $7 economic stimulus plan.

Now just days later, med-tech giant Medtronic (Minneapolis) is moving toward transparency – by reporting payment data for all of its businesses and making that information public.

"We've been contemplating this for some time now," Steve Cragle, a spokesman for Medtronic, told Medical Device Daily. "We think transparency is in the best interest of all parties. Lawmakers, our patients and the public need to see the relationship between physicians and the industry."

The company will report the amount paid in consulting fees, royalties or honoraria for physicians who receive $5,000 or per year from Medtronic.

Consulting agreements include counsel for areas such as education and training, clinical trial design and administration, and product design and safety. The company currently plans to report this data on its company website.

Cragle told MDD that even if physicians were to receive a payment of $20 after previous payments have passed the $5,000 mark then that $20 is reported, Cragle added.

Cragle said Medtronic will begin capturing payment data for all of its businesses on Jan. 1, 2010 and will publicly report this information annually. The first disclosure will occur in March of 2011 and will address payments made to physicians during calendar year 2010.

It will commission an annual third party audit to demonstrate its commitment to the accuracy of these postings, and will make a summary of the audit results public.

Medtronic initiated a first step toward greater transparency when it launched its online Donations Registry last August. The donations registry makes public donations given by Medtronic to U.S. customers or organizations affiliated with customers, including patient groups and medical societies.

The latest initiative, however, has similarities to the proposed Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which was recently reintroduced to Congress.

The bill was reintroduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) and would require both drug and device makers to report payments and gifts to physicians that exceed $100 per year to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We've been longtime supporters of Grassley and Kohl's Sunshine Act," Cragle said. "We hope by doing this we'll help sculpt a model that we'd like the entire industry to adopt."

Medtronic is not the first company to open up the reporting of its payments to physicians.

Heart valve maker Edwards Life Sciences (Irvine, California) said late last year that it would voluntarily begin to post on its web site its financial relationships with physicians who receive $5,000 or more a year in consulting fees, royalties or honoraria from the company (Medical Device Daily Dec. 29, 2008). Edwards started tracking the data on Jan. 1 and will publish it annually beginning in the second half of this year.

On the pharma side, Eli Lily (Indianapolis) and Pfizer (New York) already have volunteered to disclose payments they make to doctors.

All of the companies' efforts are voluntary, but they come on the heels of the Advanced Medical Technology Association's (AdvaMed; Washington) recent revision of its code of ethics for device firms (Medical Device Daily, Dec. 22, 2008).

In a statement sent to MDD this week, AdvaMed applauded the Sunshine legislation and urged for a cohesive bill that would create a standard of fiscal transparency.

"AdvaMed commends Senator Kohl and Senator Grassley for their continued leadership on this important issue. AdvaMed and its member companies support the appropriate disclosure of payments made to physicians and were pleased to have supported S. 2029 as revised last year," the statement said. "We are currently reviewing the details of this newly re-introduced legislation but believe it is important that any federal disclosure legislation create a uniform national standard to prevent a patchwork approach by all 50 states."

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