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California Leads the Nation in Big Pharma Payments to Doctors

The State of California leads the nation in total payments provided by pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers to doctors. The dubious title was determined based on Open Payments data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

As we have previously discussed on this San Diego Injury Blog, the Affordable Care Act mandated the creation of the Open Payments database in 2013. It requires drug and medical device makers to disclose any transfer of value to a physician that exceeds $10, which may include money, gifts, meals, and other perks bestowed upon physicians. Last year, the federal Open Payments System 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.

Overall, California doctors received $805 million from pharmaceutical and medical device companies from August 2013 to December 2014. On a per capita basis, California was home to the second highest payments after Massachusetts, according to the data compiled by ProRepublica.

For each state, ProRepublica also identified the highest-earning doctors and teaching hospitals. A San Diego doctor, Dr. Sanjiv Narayan, actually lead the country. He and his wife received $54.8 million when Abbott Laboratories bought their medical device company in December 2014. With regard to California teaching hospitals, the UCSD Medical Center took in $2.45 million in payments, ranking number seven in the state.

In its own analysis of the federal data, The San Diego Union-Tribune determined that doctors in San Diego County received $84 million in payouts from drug and medical device companies last year. More than 107,000 transactions were documented, including $8.2 million in consulting fees, $2.9 million in travel and lodging, and $2.7 million in food and beverages.

The reports highlight the extent of the relationships between doctors and the pharmaceutical industry and the risk for conflicts of interest. “Sometimes [patients] don’t get all the choices because their doctor went to a couple of lunches, had some wine, and got convinced that choice A is better than choice B,” said Arthur Caplan, director of New York University’s Division of Medical Ethics. “There’s less of that, but it hasn’t disappeared.”

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a serious medical mistake, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information, please contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.