How Much are Doctors Paid by Drug Companies and Medical Device Makers?

sunshineThe Open Payments Program creates a national database of payments made by pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies to doctors and academic medical centers.

How Much are Doctors Paid by Drug Companies and Medical Device Makers?

By DrEric – Posted on February 18, 2016

There is an excellent article in the January 2016 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings by Deborah Marshall et al. entitled, “Disclosure of Industry Payments to Physicians: An Epidemiologic Analysis of Early Data from the Open Payments Program.”

The article describes a study of data from a relatively new program of the Federal Government.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) established the Open Payments Program in 2010 as a result of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which was a part of the Affordable Care Act legislation.

The Open Payments Program creates a national database of payments made by pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies to doctors and academic medical centers.  Pharmaceutical companies and medical device companies have long paid doctors as ‘consults’ or ‘advisors’ and there has also been a long-standing concern that these payments BIAS physician decisions with their patients.

Until the Open Payments Program, the public did not know how much money was being paid to which doctors and hospitals.  Now we know.

The Results:

  • Between August 2013 and December 2013 (most recent data available) $3.7 Billion was paid to doctors and hospitals.  So, almost $4 Billion in 5 months.
  • Orthopedic Surgeons received the greatest amount of money per physician: about $7,000 per doctor during that 5 month period.

Payments by Specialty:

  • Cardiology had a the greatest percent of doctors receiving payment. 78% of Cardiologists receive some type of payment by drug companies or medical device makers.
  • 77% of Neurosurgeons receive some type of payment.
  • 68% of Gastroenterologists receive some type of payment.
  • 60% of Orthopedic Surgeons receive some type of payment.
  • 49% of All Surgeons receive some type of payment.
  • 43% of Ob/Gyns receive some type of payment.
  • 42% of Internal Medicine physicians receive some type of payment.
  • 23% of Pediatricians receive some type of payment.

The list goes on and on, but I’ll stop there. To learn more about how payment can affect provider quality, check out a previous post on the topic, 7 Exclusive Stats on $$ Payments Linked to Provider Quality.

What does this mean for healthcare consumers and employee benefits professionals?

If you are seeing a cardiologist or some of the other specialists listed above, chances are they are being paid by a drug company or medical device maker.  These payments may influence their judgment.  That influence could be conscious — i.e. the doctor more frequently prescribes a certain medication because they are being paid by the maker of that medication.  That influence could also be subconscious — i.e. the doctor may not intentionally prescribe a certain medication because they are being paid by the drug maker, but the payments still cause them to prescribe the medication more frequently.

I’m not saying you should not trust your doctor, but it is important to be aware of how money ‘flows’ in the healthcare system so that individual patients, employers and health plans can make decisions ‘eyes-wide-open.’

To learn how Compass helps the employees at 2,000+ companies navigate the healthcare system and be better healthcare consumers, visit www.compassphs.com

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