For greater transparency in the relationship between physicians and the pharmaceutical companies, does India need an Act like, proposed ‘The Physician Payment Sunshine Act’ of the USA?

As we discussed earlier, to make the pharmaceutical companies disclose and report various types of payments made to the physicians, two Senators of the United States of America, Chuck Grassley and Herb Kohl introduced a bill called ‘The Physician Payment Sunshine Act’ in January, 2009.If this bill is passed in 2010, the government will make available to the public by 2011 all types of payments made to the physicians by the pharmaceutical companies over a cumulative value of US $ 100.Items of disclosure:

Among various other heads, the following items related to the “payment made to the physicians’’ will require to be reported:

• Consulting Fees

• Compensation for services other than consulting

• Honoraria

• Gifts

• Entertainment

• Food

• Travel

• Education

• Research

• Charitable Contributions

• Royalties or licenses

• Current or prospective ownership or investment interests

• Compensation for serving as a faculty member or as a speaker for a continuing medical education program

• Grant

• Reporting will be required for compensation towards serving as faculty, or as a speaker for a CME program, and grants.

• Any other nature of the payment or other transfer of value as defined by the government

Research payments:

Pharmaceutical companies will also require reporting aggregate amounts of research payments in a specified manner.

Items exempt from disclosure:

There will be items, as mentioned below, which will be exempted from such reporting:

• Product samples

• Payments in the aggregate of less than $100

• The loan of a device for less than 90 days

• Patient education materials

• Warranty replacements (devices)

• Items for use as a patient

• Discounts and rebates

• In-kind items used in charity care

• Dividends from a publicly-traded company

Penalties for default from disclosure:

Proposed penalties have been categorized as follows:

• For unintentional failure to report: fines from US $1,000 – US $10,000 for each payment not reported with a cap of US $150,000/year

• For intentional failure to report: fines from US $10,000 – US $100,000 for each payment not reported with a cap of US $1 million/year.

World Medical Association (WMA) Statement Concerning the Relationship Between Physicians and Commercial Enterprises:

Meanwhile, WMA is also trying to address this vexing issue and coming closer to some sort of voluntary disclosure at their end, as well.

Such type of statement was first adopted by the WMA in its General Assembly at Tokyo, Japan in October 2004. Recently in its General Assembly held at New Delhi in October 2009, the statement was further amended coming closer to the disclosure of payments.
The preamble of the amended statement articulates the following:

“In the treatment of their patients, physicians use drugs, instruments, diagnostic tools, equipment and materials developed and produced by commercial enterprises. Industry possesses resources to finance expensive research and development programmes, for which the knowledge and experience of physicians are essential. Moreover, industry support enables the furtherance of medical research, scientific conferences and continuing medical education that can be of benefit to patients and the entire health care system. The combination of financial resources and product knowledge contributed by industry and the medical knowledge possessed by physicians enables the development of new diagnostic procedures, drugs, therapies, and treatments and can lead to great advances in medicine.

However, conflicts of interest between commercial enterprises and physicians occur that can affect the care of patients and the reputation of the medical profession. The duty of the physician is to objectively evaluate what is best for the patient, while commercial enterprises are expected to bring profit to owners by selling their own products and competing for customers. Commercial considerations can affect the physician’s objectivity, especially if the physician is in any way dependent on the enterprise.

Rather than forbidding any relationships between physicians and industry, it is preferable to establish guidelines for such relationships. These guidelines must incorporate the key principles of disclosure, avoidance of obvious conflicts of interest and the physician’s clinical autonomy to act in the best interests of patients.
These guidelines should serve as the basis for the review of existing guidelines and the development of any future guidelines.”

This new statement of the WMA, having a remarkable similarity with the ‘Codes of marketing Practices’ of the pharmaceutical industry associations in India, like Organization of pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI) and Indian Drug Manufacturers’ Association (IDMA) is indeed a welcome step in the right direction.


Along with the self regulation initiatives by both the industry and WMA, this bill, if passed, will surely and significantly improve the transparency related to the transaction between the pharmaceutical companies and the physicians to the public at large in the US to start with. However, bringing research within the ambit of this bill could possibly be a contentious issue.

Be that as it may, in India a large section of the civil society still feels that it is now high time for the Government of India to decide whether the nation needs an Act like the proposed ‘Physician Payment Sunshine Act’ of the US to bring in greater transparency in the process of various financial transactions between the pharmaceutical industry in India and the physicians, along with the continuing initiatives of self-regulations by both the industry and the physicians.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

The relevance of the Indian version of the Bayh-Dole Act – the country needs all stakeholders’ open debate on the proposed bill.

The Bayh-Dole Act is an American legislation, which was originally sponsored by two US senators named Birch Bayh and Bob Dole. This Act deals with Intellectual Property (IP) arising out of US government funding. Bayh-Dole Act is also known as University and Small Business Patent Procedure Act. In December 12, 1980 this was enacted into a law by the US Congress.
What it does:
Under this Act, IP rights over government funded inventions for further development, license to other parties or direct commercialization are transferred to the universities and small businesses operating with government contracts. The government though retains its right to license the invention to any third party without any consent from the IP right owner or the licensee, if it feels that on a reasonable basis the public is being denied of the benefits of the invention.

The Indian version of the Bayh-Dole Act:

The Utilization of the Public Funded Intellectual Property Bill 2008, which has been formulated in line with the US Bayh-Dole Act, has already been approved by the Union Cabinet of India. This bill ensures both utilization and protection of the IP arising out of government funded research initiatives. Currently government funded academic institutions and research institutes cannot commercialize the inventions.

The proposed bill will not only allow them to patent such inventions but will also reward the inventors and the institutes with a share of its commercialization proceeds as per specific guidelines.
The bill has attracted a mixed response from the stake holders.

The relevance of Bayh-Dole Act in India:

Relevance of Indian version of the Bayh-Doll Bill in the post product patent regime in India is
significant. The core concept of the bill encourages innovation and ensures protection of patents and other forms of IP rights of the government funded R&D outcomes, where the owner of the intellectual property will be the government grant receipients or the government.

This bill is expected to offer to various research institutions, universities, small businesses and non-profit organizations, the IP rights on their inventions, resulted from the government funding. Overall environment towards innovation within the country is expected to get a boost in that process.

Is the ownership and protection of R&D a real remedy to make government academic institutions and universities self sustainable?

This is certainly not the only remedy, but an important one. This process will have significant potential to effectively facilitate technology transfer from government funded research laboratories or universities to the user industry to make these establishments self-sustainable.

What are the main implications of the bill if enacted in its current form?

Although the fine prints of the bill are not yet clearly known, the bill in its current form raises more questions than answers. Some of the concerns with the bill in its current form are as follows:

- This law could effectively transfer the decision making process about
publications of the research papers from the researchers and academia to
the bureaucrats in the government establishments, making the R&D
environment quite stifling for the researchers and the initiative

- Academia at times will be compelled to incur significant expenditures
towards different types of IPR related litigation, which could have been
otherwise productively spent by these institutions towards research

- The learning and research may get transformed into another kind of
businesses activity, as such a law could change the research focus on to
the issues, which will be of greater commercial interest to various
industries and will offer immediate financial benefits to the
institutions. As a result vital non-commercial research, which could be of
critical interest to the nation as such, may take a back seat.


The country will therefore need an extensive public debate on this bill, which has not taken place, as yet. The loose knots of the bill need to be tightened and the concerns of the stakeholders need to be adequately addressed before its enactment into a law.

By Tapan Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.