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Latest Open Payments Data Reveals Strong Financial Ties Between Doctors and Drug Makers

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently published the second round of data collected under the Open Payments System. It revealed that doctors and teaching hospitals received $6.5 billion from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries in 2014. Overall, 1,444 drug and device makers made payments to 607,000 individual physicians and 1,121 teaching hospitals.

As we have previously discussed on this blog, the public database is intended to increase transparency about the financial relationships between physicians and drug and device makers. When a healthcare provider prescribes a new drug or medical device, most patients believe that the recommendation is based solely on their best interests. However, the new federal data suggests that may not always be true.

Under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, drug and medical device makers must disclose any transfer of value to a physician that exceeds $10, which may include money, gifts, meals, and other perks bestowed upon physicians. Drug companies must also report whether a physician or his or her family members have an ownership stake in the company outside of publicly traded stock. The data is collected by and made available online.

“This is part of our larger effort to open up the healthcare system to consumers by providing more information to help in their decision making," said Andy Slavitt, acting administrator at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Last fall, CMS released the first wave of data collected under the Open Payments System. The initial reports showed that drug and device makers made 4.4 million payments valued at nearly $3.5 billion, which were attributable to 546,000 individual physicians and almost 1,360 teaching hospitals.

The Open Payments program does not specify which payments may result in conflicts of interest. However, it does increase the scrutiny of the financial ties between doctors and the health care industry and, therefore, should help discourage inappropriate relationships. The publicly available database also provides patients with the information needed to start a dialogue with their doctors about why they accepted certain payments and how it may affect their prescribing habits or medical device recommendations.

If you or someone you love has suffered from medical negligence, don’t hesitate to contact aSan Diego personal injury attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.