Tuesday, 23 Jan 2018

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Pharma Pays $8.2 Billion to Physicians in 2016

Data made public by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services shows that drug and device makers made nearly $8.2 billion in payments to U.S. physicians and teaching hospitals in the last year. Since 2013, CMS has been tracking physician payments as part of the Affordable Care Act.

While research expenditures ($4.36 billion) made up more than half of this amount, the remainder includes funds distributed to cover expenses like travel, gifts, speaking fees and meals ($2.8 billion in "general payments"). 

The top three payouts came from Roche ($586 million), Novartis and Pfizer ($475 million each). Novartis, Pfizer and AstraZeneca spent the most on research payments ($450 million, $430 million, $367 million, respectively).

The detailed data also highlights the complexity of multinational drug companies' corporate structures. Pfizer, for instance, reported payments made through 14 different corporate entities. J&J and Roche each had more than ten reporting bodies, if the wholly owned subsidiaries of Janssen and Genentech, respectively, are included. 

For more info on open payments or payments made to individual physicians go to: https://openpaymentsdata.cms.gov/summary.

The author has no conflicts of interest to disclose related to this subject

Rheumatologists' Comments

While these numbers are somewhat alarming and reflect speaker fees, consultant fees and meals, I wonder if they also include payment for services performed in clinical trials. Physicians work hard in clinical research and deserve fair reimbursement. I am aware that early on the Sunshine Act inappropriately posted these numbers. Of course payments often go to salary for study coordinators, IRB, etc and do not end up entirely in the physicians pocket book.

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