doctors payments

The database is part of the government’s “Open Payments” program.

Scores of doctors’ groups have called for postponement, but the Obama administration intends to stick to its 30 September deadline for making public a database detailing payments and gifts from the drug industry to US physicians, a spokesperson for the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said on 15 September.



The American Medical Association and more than 100 other state medical societies and specialty groups have called on the CMS to delay the release of the information for six months, until 31 March, so that doctors could have more time to correct any inaccuracies in the database.

In a statement the association’s president, Robert Wah, said that the professional groups supported the effort to make industry payments to physicians transparent but were concerned that inaccurate information in the database, if uncorrected, could damage physician-patient relations and the careers of individual medical researchers.

“If the government releases incorrect information to the public it can lead to misinterpretations, harm reputations, and cause patients to question their trust in their physicians,” Wah said. “Inaccurate data can also unfairly impact physicians’ ability to attain or keep research grants and other employment opportunities that require disclosure.”

The database is part of the government’s “Open Payments” program created by the Payments Sunshine Act, a provision of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The legislation requires manufacturers of drugs, medical devices, and medical supplies to report all payments, gifts, and other “transfers of value” to licensed doctors of medicine, osteopathy, dentistry and dental surgery, optometry, and chiropractic medicine in the United States, as well as payments to teaching hospitals.

Payments that must be reported include those for consulting, speakers’ fees and honorariums, travel and lodging, gifts and entertainment, and royalties, stocks, and stock options. Payments less than $10 (£6; €8) per transaction or $100 a year do not need to be reported.

Manufacturers had until 30 June to report their payments to the CMS, which has compiled the information in a searchable database, where, when the database goes online, the public will be able to find out how much individual physicians were paid, by whom, for what reason, and the drug or device associated with the payment. The initial data were to cover payments made from August through to September 2013.

In July, physicians were allowed to log on to the system to review their reports to make sure they were accurate and challenge any information supplied by the industry that they believed to be incorrect. However, physicians complained that they had difficulty logging on to the website during the preview period and found the site difficult to navigate. Several physicians also reported that payments were ascribed to them that had in fact gone to others with similar names.

An informal survey conducted by the American Medical Association of its members who had tried to view their information found that 44% of those surveyed reported that they were unable to log on and register and that of those who were able to log on 62% said that their information was not accurate.

In early August technical problems and concerns about the accuracy of the information prompted the CMS to take the system offline for 12 days and then later to decide to withhold about a third of the data submitted by industry until the inaccuracies could be corrected.

The shutdown, said Wah, made it “clear that the government’s website is not ready for prime time.”

Photo credit: Miami Herald

Via The bmj