1,444 companies paid 1,100 teaching hospitals and 607,000 physicians nearly $6.5 billion in 2014. It is the first full year of data concerning the financial ties between doctors and the pharmaceutical companies and medical device manufacturers that are paying them. The data counts the value of meals as well as payments for speeches, consulting and research.
Pfizer is believed to have made the most payments with $234 million in research payments and general outlays of $53.3 million. Some companies like Johnson & Johnson and Merck reported payments from several different entities.
The data comes from the release of the second annual Open Payments report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services today. Last year, CMS released information for payments from August 1 until December 31, 2013. Physicians and teaching hospitals received $3.43 billion in payments during the last 5 months in 2013.
The release of this information was authorized by the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The provision, called the Sunshine Act, requires manufactures to disclose their payments to physicians and teaching hospitals. The effort is to bring transparency, or sunshine, to the ties that might impact a doctor’s prescribing decisions and inform their patients of them.
As we represent several health care whistleblowers in False Claims Act litigation that has been unsealed, and have seen several other settled and currently pending cases, we know that drug and device companies do cross the bounds when marketing their products. The allegations we have seen allege that payments for speaker programs were in effect kickbacks in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. Many of these payments were for “sham” speak programs that had few or no attendees as well as little, if any, educational value. Companies were also expressly tying the participation of physicians in their speaking programs, for which they receive compensation, to the amount of product that they prescribed.
Patients should be aware of these tactics of marketing medical products, check the data and speak to their physician about their medications.