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Database Reveals Drug Kickbacks To Doctors

Published on Nov 5, 2014 at 8:40 am in Medical Malpractice.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CSM) has unveiled a new database designed to disclose payments made by drug and medical device manufacturers to doctors and teaching hospitals. The site called “Open Payments” has drawn criticism from the industry and doctors who say it was filled with errors. Consumer advocates charge that the site is under-reporting payments

The CMS collected the data and posted it online last week as part of a transparency initiative mandated by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

CMS said that the purpose of the site is “to help consumers understand the financial relationships between the health care industry, and physicians and teaching hospitals.”

Initial users reported the site was all but impossible to access online. Propublica reports one doctor couldn’t even find himself and Propublica analysts were finally able to analyze the information only after hours downloading the database.

The initial disclosure lists $3.5 billion dollars made in 4.4 million payments. The money was given to more than half a million doctors and 1,300 teaching hospitals.

The site acknowledges that 40 percent of the 4.4 million payments do not show the names of doctors or hospitals that received the money. CMS says names have been withheld due to inconsistencies. The Wall Street Journal reports that some of the data may have been reported incorrectly by the companies themselves.

CMS promises to release that data when it can. In the meanwhile, a site that only reveals 40 percent of payments recorded is hardly a comprehensive record of who is receiving industry money. Forty percent of $3.5 billion amounts to more than $1 billion. And those are just payments made between August and December in 2013.

The upshot, as revealed by Propublica, is that “the unpublished data amounted to almost a quarter of the money drug and device makers dispensed in the final five months of last year.”

CMS released its final regulations for creation of the site in February 2013 and met its self-imposed deadline for launch by October. Although, this was the second deadline after CMS pushed the original deadline out 18 months later than Congress had asked for.

CMS officials have announced that they plan to disclose more user-friendly tools for the website soon.