GlaxoSmithKline is to make public the level of advisory fees it offers to doctors and medical academics, and will strictly cap the payments they can receive in the US to $150,000 (£88,000) a year each.
Andrew Witty, chief executive of the UK-based pharmaceutical company, said he was introducing tougher new rules to impose a cap "without exception" on such payments and promised to publish the amounts.
So let's see, if it is news that the "cap" of payments to physicians (presumably fees for "consulting," and honoraria for giving talks), then it is likely that GSK was paying at least some physicians more than $150,000 a year for these purposes. We have discussed, along with many others, the large fees GSK and other pharmaceutical companies were paying to one particular "Key Opinion Leader," who apparently failed to accurately report these payments even while he was leading an NIH grant designed to evaluate a drug made by GSK.
As evidence accumulates that the amounts paid some academic physician "Key Opinion Leaders" by pharmaceutical (and other health care) companies equal some academic physicians' salaries, it becomes harder to argue that these payments are just compensation for some straightforward and occasional services rendered. Furthermore, it becomes harder for those receiving the payments to argue that the amounts received could not possibly have ever had the slightest influence on their professional judgment, what they taught their trainees, or what they wrote or spoke about in academic and health policy fora.
With more pressure on health care companies to disclose payments to "Key Opinion Leaders," I wonder whether the details of such disclosure will start to illustrate that disclosure alone is not an adequate way to "manage" such "conflicts of interest?"