(CRUX) U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals got $6.49 billion from drug and medical-device makers in 2014, according to new government data on the financial links between the companies and the people who prescribe their products.
The data released Tuesday range from the royalties paid to hospitals to help develop products to fees provided to medical experts to speak at a dinner with colleagues. The payments are listed in two broad categories: money to fund research and payments to entertain doctors or compensate them for consulting or other non-research purposes.
By disclosing information on the payments, the U.S. is seeking to bring transparency to the financial relationships between drugmakers and health care providers. Those ties can influence how physicians practice, even if they aren’t aware of it, said Jason Dana, a professor at Yale School of Management who studies decision-making.
“If we have a financial incentive to believe something or conclude something, we kind of trick ourselves into thinking it’s true,” he said. “And we’re not always aware we’re doing it.”
The government created a website, called Open Payments, to let people search for data on their medical providers.
The disclosures cover payments to about 607,000 doctors and 1,121 teaching hospitals. Overall, companies made $3.23 billion in payments for research and $2.56 billion for other purposes, according to a summary posted on the website. The data also include ownership interests of $703 million.
President Barack Obama’s administration has been working to increase transparency in health care since the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In addition to the payments posted Tuesday, the law has also led to the disclosure of how much doctors across the U.S. are paid by Medicare.
“We have to know where the money is going to really understand the problem, to develop policy,” Dana said. “No pharma companies spend this kind of money in a disinterested way.”
Some companies began voluntarily disclosing the payments in 2010 after the Affordable Care Act was signed. A similar disclosure requirement begins next year in Europe, while U.K. firms began posting the information in 2013.
The Advanced Medical Technology Association said Tuesday that feedback from doctors helps device makers improve their products. The group, which represents device and diagnostics firms, said it supports the disclosures.
Drug industry group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said collaboration between doctors and drugmakers helps lead to medical breakthroughs and can improve patient care.