Eli Lilly has come out in favour of a newly-revised bill from the US Senate which will force drugmakers to reveal payments they make to physicians.

The Physicians Payments Sunshine Act, sponsored by US Senators Charles Grassley (Republican-Iowa) and Herbert Kohl (Democrat-Wisconsin) has been changed (and some say watered down) to make pharmaceutical firms and devicemakers declare gifts over $500 a year made to doctors, compared to the $25 limit suggested in a previous draft. The revised bipartisan bill, which would establish a national registry of payments, also reduces fines to $1,000-$50,000 from $10,000-$100,000 for each violation.

Lilly, which notes that it is “the first pharmaceutical research company to back such federal legislation”, became the first company to voluntarily make public its clinical trials and data in 2004 and last year it decided to reveal all of its educational grants and charitable contributions. Chief executive John Lechleiter said the firm “welcomes greater transparency in the health care system and believes this legislation represents an important step in building public trust and confidence in the relationships between the pharmaceutical and device industries and physicians.".

Noting that "a key strength of the Grassley-Kohl bill is that it would create a uniform national standard for reporting physician payments”, he said that it sets expectations and create “a more efficient system for gathering, reporting and understanding such data".

Sen Grassley said that Lilly deserves credit for its support of the Sunshine Act “and the leadership role it is taking for greater transparency” and praised its “forward-looking endorsement” of the legislation. Sen Kohl added that Lilly’s endorsement “goes to show that transparency of the financial ties between doctors and drugmakers is not only sensible, but do-able”. He ended by urging the rest of the pharmaceutical industry to follow the US major’s lead.

The response to the Sunshine Act has been less warm in other areas and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America says that it hopes any legislation will not "inadvertently imply” that these drugmaker-doctor transactions “are inappropriate." Others, notably the influential consumer group Public Citizen, gave criticised the idea of lesser fines, saying it will not act as a deterrent to pharma firms.