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Ontario mulls requiring disclosure of pharmaceutical payments made to doctors

Last Updated Jul 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm EDT

Prescription pills are pictured in this June 20, 2012 photo. A new report says the amount of money Canadians spent on prescription drugs last year rose a mere 0.9 per cent, the lowest increase since statistics on drug spending were first measured in 1975. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy

Ontario is considering requiring any payments private drug companies make to doctors to be disclosed publicly.

The province has now started consulting with patient groups, health-care providers and the pharmaceutical and medical device industries about the regulations that govern such payments.

Patients in the United States, Australia and some European countries can already go online to see how much money their health-care providers have received from pharmaceutical companies.

Ten major pharmaceutical companies released data last month showing they had paid nearly $50 million to Canadian health-care professionals and organizations last year.

Payments from pharmaceutical companies to health care providers can raise concerns about conflicts of interest in the prescribing and promotion of certain drugs.

There are already some restrictions in Ontario on the types of benefits that can be received, but disclosure isn’t always required.

Shawn Whatley, the president of the Ontario Medical Association, said Monday that any changes to disclosure rules “should be applied to all health care professionals to ensure doctors are on a level playing field and not disadvantaged by new regulations.”

A policy from the regulatory body for doctors in the province says physicians must not accept compensation from the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries in exchange for meeting with promotional representatives, and they must not accept personal gifts.

They can, however, accept items such as teaching aids that benefit patients, under the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario’s policy. They can also accept drug samples.

Doctors are allowed to accept compensation at “fair market value” for presenting at industry-supported continuing education events, sitting on advisory or consultation boards, and for participating in industry research.