GlaxoSmithKline will become the latest company to publish all its payments to doctors, and those payments will be capped at $150,000 a year, CEO Andrew Witty said. GSK previously opposed doctor-cash transparency. The move -- a stark U-turn -- is a mirror image of the one performed by Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter a few weeks ago.
The move is a healthy one because it will reveal to the public whether doctors' endorsements and prescriptions of certain drugs are in any way correlated to the wheelbarrows of cash that GSK may leave on their doorsteps. Several U.S. states already require this for their doctors, and there is a bill in Congress to make such disclosure federal law.
The GSK move raises a question: Now that Witty is in favor of revealing how GSK spreads its financial influence among physicians, will he apologize to Massachusetts and retract the letter his former lieutenant, ex-GSK U.S. pharma president Chris Viehbacher, sent to the state, which made a thinly veiled threat not to invest there if it persisted with its law that required -- you guessed it -- telling the public how much GSK is paying doctors?
Unlikely. As Witty told the FT, "In the past, whatever has happened has happened," which is, inarguably, true.
The events place a spotlight on Viehbacher, who is now CEO of Sanofi-Aventis. If he also announced that Sanofi will do the right thing and reveal its payments, that would complete the trifecta of nonsensical posturing around the Massachusetts bill earlier this year.