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Claudine Homolash Chats with ProPublica Senior Healthcare Reporter and Senior Editor

On Friday, May 9, 2014, I had the opportunity to meet Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber. Mr. Ornstein is a senior healthcare reporter at ProPublica, and Ms. Weber is a senior editor at ProPublica. ProPublica is a nonprofit news organization devoted to investigative journalism in the public interest.

The resources I find of most value in my practice are ProPublica’s “Dollars for Docs” portal that allows any person, including a patient, to lookup a doctor to determine whether he or she received any drug industry money. Payments to doctors are categorized by reason and year, as well as by pharmaceutical company. Unfortunately, for now, this information is incomplete since it is based upon company disclosures. Typically, after a company resolves a whistleblower case, the federal government requires the pharmaceutical company to enter into a Corporate Integrity Agreement to foster more transparence. One of the requirements of these agreements is that the companies report payments to healthcare professionals and healthcare institutions. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will begin to publish the data in a public database on September 30, 2014 under the requirements of a new law called “The Sunshine Act.”

ProPublica also has a Prescriber Checkup Database that allows a person to look up any doctor and determine how this doctor compares to his or her peers by focusing on the amount of Medicare Part D prescriptions filled, the number of prescriptions given to patients, the number of “risky” drugs prescribed, as well as how much of a particular drug he or she is prescribing. With this information, you may be able to determine whether payments to a particular doctor is influencing his or her prescription habits. This is such a valuable resource for patients.

Payments to doctors should be unconcealed. Doctors are supposed to provide patients with the best possible care and when the drug industry influences doctors with cash payments, it becomes impossible for patient care not to be compromised. I am hopeful that the Sunshine Act will have a positive effect on healthcare and assist patients in obtaining the best possible care.

You can learn more about the resourceful information described above at http://www.propublica.org/.

Claudine Q. Homolash, Esquire, founder of the CQH Firm, is a whistleblower, pharmaceutical injury and personal injury lawyer representing clients nationwide. She can be contacted at info@cqhfirm.com or 1-(844) 677-4276 or (215) 496-1012 for a free legal consultation.

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