Feds Website Showing Drug Company Payments to Physicians Launched Sept. 30
Striving to shine a light on potential ethical conflicts in medicine, the Obama administration is releasing data on drug company payments to tens of thousands of individual doctors. As conceived, the so-called Open Payments program was intended to allow patients to easily look up their own doctors online. That functionality won’t be ready yet. And although preliminary data to be released will be incomplete, it’s expected to be useful for professional researchers. President Barack Obama’s health care law requires manufacturers to report payments and gifts to physicians, unless they are valued at less than $10. It’s part of a shift under his administration, supported by lawmakers of both parties, to open the books of the medical profession. A few months ago, Medicare released its massive claims database, showing program payments to more than 825,000 providers for 2012. Drug companies traditionally have prized their relationships with doctors, the gatekeepers between patients and prescription medications. But consumer groups see a built-in conflict of interest that could influence prescribing decisions. Some doctors’ offices have started curbing pharmaceutical marketing, which can include anything from free pens and pizzas to paid speaking engagements and golf outings at fancy resorts. But many doctors also receive significant payments to help drug companies conduct clinical research.