ProPublica reported on October 17, 2019 in an article entitled “We Found Over 700 Doctors Who Were Paid More Than a Million Dollars by Drug and Medical Device Companies” that “More than 2,500 physicians have received at least half a million dollars apiece from drugmakers and medical device companies in the past five years alone, a new ProPublica analysis of payment data shows. And that doesn’t include money for research or royalties from inventions. More than 700 of those doctors received at least $1 million.”
ProPublica reported: “Each year from 2014 to 2018, drug and medical device companies spent between $2.1 billion and $2.2 billion paying doctors for speaking and consulting, as well as on meals, travel and gifts for them. (These figures do not include research spending, but they do include royalties.) Roughly the same number of doctors — more than 600,000 — received payments in any given year.”
“Over the course of five years, 1 million doctors, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors and podiatrists received at least one payment, most often a meal, from a company. Of those practitioners, more than 323,000 received at least one payment every year. About 240,000 received a payment in only one year. And the rest received payments in more than one year but in fewer than five. For context, there are about 1.1 million doctors in the United States.”
“Of the top 20 drugs with the most annual spending on doctors from 2014 to 2018, six made the list in each of the years: Invokana to treat type 2 diabetes, the blood thinners Xarelto and Eliquis, the antipsychotic Latuda, the immunosuppressive drug Humira and the multiple sclerosis drug Aubagio. Another three drugs were on the list for four years: Victoza to treat type 2 diabetes, psoriasis treatment Otezla and the cholesterol-lowering drug Repatha. (Research funding and royalties are not included.)”
“Xarelto topped the list in spending for four years, totaling more than $123 million in payments from 2014 to 2018. In March, its makers, Johnson & Johnson and Bayer AG, agreed to pay $775 million to settle about 25,000 lawsuits claiming that the companies had failed to warn patients that Xarelto could cause fatal bleeding.”
ProPublica stated: “There is a perception among many physicians, including some in academia, that drug company payments are fairly benign — a moonlighting gig that educates other doctors about important medications. But since ProPublica began looking at physician payments, one drugmaker after another has paid tens, or even hundreds, of millions of dollars to resolve allegations of improper, or illegal, marketing tactics. In fact, drug company whistleblowers and federal prosecutors have said explicitly that in some cases the payments were actually bribes and kickbacks. And this behavior has continued despite tools like Dollars for Docs.”
Open Payments is a national transparency program that collects and publishes information about financial relationships between the health care industry (i.e. drug and device companies) and providers (i.e. physicians and teaching hospitals). These relationships may involve payments to providers for things such as research, meals, travel, gifts, or speaking fees. One of the ways that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provides data to the public is through this search tool, which allows the public to search for physicians and teaching hospitals receiving payments, as well as companies that have made payments.
The purpose of the program is to provide the public with a more transparent healthcare system.
In 2018, 627,000 physicians received $2.17 billion in general payments, $84.29 million in research payments, and had $1.42 billion in value of ownership or investment interest.
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