A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would require pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers to disclose the amount of money they give to doctors through payments, gifts, honoraria, travel, and other means.

The legislation, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, was introduced September 6 by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). The proposed federal legislation applies to companies with $100 million or more in annual gross revenues. The bill requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to create a Web site and post payment information disclosed by industry. Penalties for not reporting payments would range from $10,000 to $100,000 per violation.

Several states, including Minnesota, Vermont, Maine, and West Virginia, have similar laws on the books.

"Right now the public has no way to know whether a doctor's been given money that might affect prescribing habits," Grassley said in a statement. "This bill is about letting the sun shine in so that the public can know. Whether it's dinner at a restaurant or tens of thousands of dollars or more in fees and travel, patients shouldn't be in the dark about whether their doctors are getting money from drug and device makers," added Grassley, a ranking member of the Senate's Committee on Finance, which issued a report in April on the potential for influence by pharmaceutical companies on medical education. Kohl is chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, which held a hearing in June to examine the financial relationship between physicians and the pharmaceutical industry.