Monday, January 31, 2011

KOLs: Here's Another Reason to Get Your House in Order

So, the pharma reporting errors are beginning. For a few years members have disclosed to the state of Minnesota how much they pay physicians for services they provide, but now they must also report those numbers on their own sites as well.  So what happens when the figures on the company's web site are different than the figures reported on a state's website?

Are these honest mistakes, or is there real deception involved? We can’t really tell from the following story.

ProPublica compared its database, compiled from the seven industry sites that have gone public with their financial relationships, to the database maintained by Minnesota, the first state to mandate disclosure, and found “multiple” examples of mismatched figures.
ProPublica didn’t provide exact numbers, but said some dollar amounts didn’t match.

Anyone even remotely connected to the business knows that a database containing the names of physicians who have represented these companies must be fairly large: Pfizer’s web site alone has 4,850 “entities” paid between July 1 and December 31, 2009. Is it possible that a few misreports could happen? One would think -- especially if different departments use the same KOL -- and didn't share the information.

Without the exact data, we can only guess. Either way, the reporting is incomplete. More robust reporting would be helpful, but frankly, the real need is for everyone to realize this financial reporting will likely have unintended consequences -- for starters, less informed physicians, because fewer physicians will want to act as speakers. They won't want to undergo this kind of public scrutiny.

There is no question that pharma needs to get its house in order regarding KOL payments. This is why we believe KOL selection, contracting monitoring and management must be done from a centralized unit. We have written extensively on this subject, and are expert in guiding members in how to coordinate, manage, and maintain KOL relationships.

The sooner, the better.

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