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Drug, device companies gave docs, hospitals $8.4B in 2017

Doctors and teaching hospitals received $8.4 billion from drug and device companies in 2017, according to the latest Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments data. That’s down from an updated figure of $8.8 billion a year earlier. Open Payments published 11.54 million payment records. Payments included nearly $4.7 billion in research-related payments, $2.82 billion in non-research-related payments, such as meals, fees and travel to speaking events and more than $927 million in ownership or investment interests held by physicians or immediate family members. About 628,000 doctors received $79.1 million in research-related payments.

CMS each year releases data about the financial interactions between doctors, teaching hospitals and drug and device makers.

Open Payments, which was part of the Provider Payment Sunshine Act in 2015, includes a search tool for patients to research by doctor, hospital and company.

Calculating the totals takes some math, but the numbers are eye-popping nonetheless. For example, Pfizer made $48 million in general payments and $447 million in research-related payments through 12 different corporate entities in 2017. On the medical device side, Medtronic made $104 million in general payments and nearly $61 million in research payments through four reporting subsidiaries.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who co-sponsored the legislation, said on Monday that Open Payments shines a light on the industry, although he acknowledged that “many of these payments are for legitimate research and patient care.”

The leading types of payments in 2017 were:

  • Compensation for services other than consulting, including serving as faculty or as a speaker at a venue other than a continuing education program — $560 million.
  • Royalty of license — $499 million
  • Consulting fee — $409 million
  • Food and beverage — $237 million
  • Travel and lodging — $188 million

California topped the list for highest contributions to any state in 2017. Companies gave more than $250 million to doctors and hospitals in California. Other states with more than $100 million in contributions were Texas, New York and Florida.

The $8.4 billion given to doctors and hospitals in 2017 was less than the $8.8 billion reported for 2016 and similar to the $8.4 billion in 2015.

The American Medical Association has previously questioned Open Payments data. While pledging a commitment to transparency, the AMA raised concerns about the program in 2016, namely about data errors and issues with registration.

“The integrity goals of the Open Payments database will not be met as long as physician review is obstructed by a registration procedure that is confusing, time consuming and overly burdensome,” the AMA said at the time.