Hours after Eli Lilly said that it will begin disclosing payments to doctors next year, Merck & Co has announced that it plans to do the same.

The New Jersey-based drugmaker says that it endorses the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, sponsored by US Senators Charles Grassley (Republican-Iowa) and Herbert Kohl (Democrat-Wisconsin). That bill has yet to be passed but Merck said that “even in the absence of a legislative requirement…we are committed to begin disclosure in 2009 of payments to physicians who speak on behalf of our company or our products”.

The firm added that in October, it will begin “enhancing transparency of our grants to patient organisations, medical professional societies” and for “independent professional education initiative”s, including accredited continuing medical education (CME). Over the course of 2009, Merck said it will expand its disclosures to include other grants made by The Merck Company Foundation and the Merck Office of Corporate Contributions.

Next month, Merck will also start disclosing results from its studies, regardless of outcome, on ClinicalTrials.gov. and October will also see the firm publish its Corporate Responsibility Report detailing “future commitments to enhanced transparency”. Merck added that it is committed to increasing transparency “in all major aspects of our operations, from research to sales and marketing practices”.

A number of major players, including Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have nailed their transparency credentials to the mast of late and backed the Sunshine Act, albeit the watered-down version which will make firms declare gifts over $500 a year made to doctors, compared to the $25 limit suggested in a previous draft. The revised bill, also reduces fines to $1,000-$50,000 from $10,000-$100,000 for each violation.