November 18,2009

Grassley continues effort for transparency about drug company money

WASHINGTON --- Senator Chuck Grassley has asked leading medical schools to describe their policies on ghostwriting as part of his continuing effort to shed light on financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and medical professionals.

“I’m interested in transparency, and academic institutions play an important role in establishing adequate and meaningful disclosure. Letting the sun shine in and making information public is basic to building people’s confidence in medical research and the practice of medicine,” Grassley said.

Last July, Grassley wrote to eight leading medical journals to ask the same kinds of questions he’s presented to the medical schools. Prior to that, he asked two major drug companies about allegations that they hired ghostwriters to draft articles promoting company products and seek academics to sign on as primary authors.

Grassley also has conducted oversight and sought disclosure with physicians, continuing medical education and the patient advocacy community. He has worked to expose cases where there was vast disparity between drug-company payments received and reported by leading medical researchers. The National Institutes of Health is working on new disclosure guidelines for federal grant recipients in response to Grassley’s work.

In January, Grassley and Senator Herb Kohl introduced, for the second time, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. The legislation would require annual public reporting by drug, device and biologic manufacturers of payments made to physicians nationwide. It was included in the health care reform bill passed in October by the Senate Committee on Finance.

Attached in the Printer-Friendly version is the text of the letter of inquiry that Grassley sent to Columbia University, Duke University, Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, the University of California San Francisco, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Washington, Washington University in St. Louis, and Stanford University.