How pharmaceutical companies are waging the privacy war.
Image from Flickr via epSos.de
By Charles Ornstein
By arrangement with ProPublica
One of the first pharmaceutical companies to disclose its payments to doctors has pulled all of the data offline.
Cephalon, now a subsidiary of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, had reported its ties to doctors since 2009 under the terms of a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The pact was put in place after the company agreed to pay a $425 million settlement in 2008 for marketing Actiq, Gabitril and Provigil for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Physician Payment Sunshine Act requires that all pharmaceutical and medical device companies disclose payments over $10 to doctors.
But that requirement expired last September, and Teva pulled the data offline earlier this year when it updated its website.
Cephalon’s payments from 2009 to 2012 continue to be available on ProPublica’sDollars for Docs website, which aggregates payments made by 15 pharmaceutical companies since 2009. During that time, the company reported nearly $90 million in payments to doctors.
The gap in the company’s disclosures will be short. Teva will have to resume publicly reporting its payments to doctors later this year under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which requires that all pharmaceutical and medical device companies disclose payments over $10 to doctors. The first report, covering the period of August to December 2013, is expected to be released in September of this year.
Teva spokeswoman Denise Bradley said in an email that the company met the requirements of its agreement with the inspector general. The company has now “redirected our resources to ensuring that we comply with the requirements” of the Sunshine Act.
A spokesman for the inspector general confirmed that Cephalon and Teva are currently under no obligation to continue reporting the data.
This isn’t the first time that a drug company has released payments to doctors only to withdraw them. Allergan, best known for its wrinkle-fighting drugs Botox and Juvederm, began posting payments to doctors on its website in April 2011, but it later erased the records of those it paid from the third quarter of 2010 to the second quarter of 2011.
An Allergan spokeswoman said in 2012 that the company removed the older payments from its website because it had revamped its disclosures and didn’t want the public to be confused. “The earlier reports were accurate, but represented limited data and as such would not provide meaningful or accurate comparisons,” she said at the time.
Charles Ornstein reported for the Times starting in 2001, in the last five years largely in partnership with Weber. Earlier, Ornstein spent five years as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News. He is president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and a former Kaiser Family Foundation media fellow.