Medical companies paid doctors $6.49B in 2014

Medical companies paid doctors $6.49B in 2014
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Drug and medical device companies made $6.49 billion in payments to doctors and teaching hospitals in 2014, ranging from research funds to speaking fees, according to new government data

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There have long been concerns that some of the payments are inappropriately influencing doctors to prescribe certain medications and boost drug companies’ profits. 

The data released by the Obama administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Tuesday break down the total into $3.23 billion for research and $2.56 billion in other payments. 

“Certainly in the research realm, some of it is appropriate,” said Dr. Michael Carome, director of the health research group at Public Citizen, an advocacy group that has raised concerns about the payments. 

However, he added: “The gifts, the free meals, the travel, those in subtle and not-so-subtle ways influence physician prescribing behavior.”

The disclosures are part of a database created last year under ObamaCare to increase transparency. 

Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for PhRMA, the nation's top drug lobby, defended the payments, saying they include funding of important clinical trials and facilitate feedback from doctors to companies about their products. 

“Collaboration between physicians and biopharmaceutical professionals is critical to improving the health and quality of life of patients,” she said in a statement. 

The payments come from 1,444 companies to 607,000 doctors and 1,121 teaching hospitals. 

CMS officials said they had made improvements to the new database, which last year had problems with errors. 

“This is part of our larger effort to open up the health care system to consumers by providing more information to help in their decision making,” said acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt.