CMS data detail nearly $6.5 billion in payments by drug and device companies

CMS published its 2014 Open Payments data this week, detailing payments made by drug and device companies to various healthcare providers. The data includes information on 11.4 million financial transactions made to physicians and teaching hospitals, totaling $6.49 billion.

“Consumer access to information is a key component of delivery system reform and making the health care system perform better,” Andy Slavitt, acting CMS administrator, said in a statement. “In year 2, Open Payments is now a highly searchable resource to provide transparency to over 1 1/2 years’ worth of financial transactions between drug and device companies and physicians and teaching hospitals. This is part of our larger effort to open up the health care system to consumers by providing more information to help in their decision making.”

The Open Payments program, which was created as part of the Affordable Care Act, debuted last year. It shows payments that could be for a wide range of services, including research or speaking fees. Per CMS’ schedule, June of each year is when the prior year’s data is made public.

According to an analysis from Modern Healthcare, the median amount paid to physicians by all drug and device companies in 2014 was $233,376. Meanwhile, 125 of those companies paid more than $1 million, and the top 10 companies paid $709 million combined.

The program’s user interface was updated in advance of this latest rollout, making it easier to navigate and search for specific information. According to CMS, further updates are expected later this year.

The American Medical Association (AMA) released a statement about the data shortly after its publication, saying it should be independently confirmed by physicians to ensure it is “valid, reliable, and complete” before being released to the public.

“Patients deserve to have access to accurate information,” the AMA statement read. “Publishing inaccurate data leads to misinterpretations, harms reputations and undermines the sacred trust that patients have in their physicians. It can also discourage research and care delivery improvements that help patients as well.”

The American College of Radiology (ACR) had no official statement after this latest data release, but when the program first began, Geraldine McGinty, MD, chair of the ACR’s commission on economics, told it’s reassuring to patients to have this information.

“Our patients have the right to know when we are receiving payments from device manufacturers and drug companies,” McGinty said at the time. “When I’m a patient, I want to know that my doctor is choosing a particular drug for me, or a particular device to do an imaging test, because they think it’s going to give me the best care, not because they are receiving a payment from a manufacturer.”