Gifts to doctors must be disclosed under U.S. bill

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Drug and medical device manufacturers would need to publicly disclose all doctor payments and gifts exceeding $100 per year under U.S. legislation unveiled on Thursday.

Companies would face penalties as high as $1 million for knowingly failing to report the payments if the bill by Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley and Wisconsin Democrat Herb Kohl becomes law.

The effort is meant to shine light on the industry’s lavish gifts to doctors, which range from pricey dinners to golf vacations, as well as consulting and speaking fees.

Critics say the payments may skew doctors’ decision-making.

“The goal of our legislation is to lay it all out, make the information available for everyone to see, and let people make their own judgments about what the relationships mean or don’t mean,” Grassley said in a statement.

The information would be posted online for public viewing, the senators said.

Kohl said he was confident the legislation, called the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, would pass in the current Democratic-led Congress.

A previous version did not advance in the last congressional session. It required public reporting only if payments topped $500 per year.

Some manufacturers had supported the earlier bill, and companies including Eli Lilly & Co and Merck & Co Inc pledged voluntary disclosures.

Kohl chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging and Grassley is the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

Grassley said he is considering if reporting requirements should also apply to industry payments to medical organizations, hospitals, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacists and pharmacies, continuing medical education groups and medical schools.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Editing by Richard Chang)

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