New Website Will Disclose Health Industry Payments To Physicians

By Ankita Rao

April 23rd, 2013, 5:58 AM

For the first time, the government will make information about financial relationships between doctors, teaching hospitals and drug manufacturers publicly available.

To comply with a provision in the Affordable Care Act, drug and device manufacturers, along with group purchasing organizations, will have to disclose all of their payments and other compensation to physicians and teaching hospitals. Those who don’t comply could be fined.

The information will be gathered beginning in August and disclosed by Sept. 30, 2014 on a new website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The site is part of the National Physician Payment Transparency Program, an effort to bring the financial relationships to light.

The possible conflict of interest that occurs when physicians receive gifts and incentives from drug companies has made news for the past few years. Dr. Charles Nemeroff, former Department of Psychiatry chairman at Emory University, earned $2.8 million by speaking and consulting for drug companies over seven years. An article in the Economist in March said drug companies spent more than $24 billion marketing to doctors in 2012.

There was also a surge of coverage after the nonprofit media organization ProPublica produced a database called Dollars for Docs in October 2010, where people could look up physicians and payments they received from drug companies. “They have a right to know this information and ask questions about it if they want to,” said Charles Ornstein, a reporter at ProPublica who was part of the project.

He said the service attracted more than 5 million page views, and sparked discussion among physicians, lawmakers and consumers. Ornstein attributed the popularity of Dollars for Docs to the ability of consumers to look up their own doctors.

But publicly reporting these financial relationships may not be a complete solution, said Donald Light, a fellow at Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics.

Light, who researches institutional corruption in the development of prescription drugs, said a website like the new CMS database wouldn’t put a stop to the problem. He said ending pharmaceutical and device payments to doctors altogether would be more effective, giving the example of Kaiser Permanente, which doesn’t allow the physicians it employs to receive free drug samples or gifts. (KHN is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

“If we agree that the goal of medicine is to help patients become healthier, then these payments corrupt our goal,” Light said.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 at 5:58 am.


3 Responses to “New Website Will Disclose Health Industry Payments To Doctors”

  1. walter says:

    Any industry that functions in darkness and refuses disclosure is corrupt. Cockroaches like it best when it’s totally dark and nobody can see what they do. Turn on the kitchen light and the cockroaches scatter. The ACA turns on a big bright light to shine on the health industry cockroaches. The health industry is filled with corrupt shysters that have functioned in darkness for far too long.

  2. Ben says:

    A glaring omission in this disclosure is the lack of reporting of hospital payments to physicians. In our community hospitals are paying certain physicians salaries that are multiples of the money the physicians collect for their services. In some of the cases reported the physicians were collecting $800,000 with $200,000 of overhead leaving an income of $600,000. The hospital offered them a salary of $1,400,000.

    There are two explanations for this in our area. One, the hospital is converting the services provided in the physician office to hospital rates at 5 to 10 times the physician rate. The other explanation is that the hospital is simply buying the referrals of the physician by offering such an increase in income.

    Hospitals should be required to report all payments to physicians.

  3. killroy 71 says:

    If you truly want to make the point that KHN is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente, you should find another example of a health system or other entity that doesn’t permit gifts/payments to doctors. Surely there are others. If I were KHN editor, I’d do a bit of legwork to avoid having to use that parenthetical disclaimer.