Community Catalyst Welcomes First National Release of Data on Industry Payments to Physicians

Statement of Marcia Hams, Director of Prescription Access & Quality, Community Catalyst, on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services first release of data on its Open Payments website, made possible by the Physician Payments Sunshine provisions of the Affordable Care Act

(BOSTON) - “We commend the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for this groundbreaking first release of the Open Payments System, which sheds light on $3.5 billion in payments and gifts from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries to physicians. As an organization that works to ensure consumers have a strong voice in decisions that affect their health, we welcome the full public transparency of the millions of annual financial interactions by industry with physicians and teaching hospitals.

“Evaluating these interactions and their overall impact on the patient care, health care costs and the medical profession will take some time. In the meantime, consumers deserve the right to be aware of these interactions, so they can raise questions with their doctors about how their relationships with industry may be affecting their care. Public opinion polls have shown that consumers are highly suspicious industry payments to doctors.

“Despite this, studies as recent as 2009 suggest that as many as seven-out-of-ten doctors were accepting gifts of food paid for by industry, with nearly one out-of seven doctors  paid by industry for consulting, promotional speaking, or some other activities.

“Research has shown that such industry interactions with physicians can lead to prescribing of more expensive drug products, including drugs that may be inconsistent with treatment guidelines. This drives up costs for patients and our health care system, while also reducing the quality of health care.

“More recently, health centers and medical schools have taken steps to ban inappropriate industry interactions and payments with doctors on staff. Physicians in community settings, however, face no such restrictions (except in three states).  Industry gifts and payments are assumed to be widespread, but until today, consumers had few means to see if their doctors were accepting these gifts or any other payments from industry.

“Thanks to the unparalleled level of transparency that the Open Payments website now provides, patients, the public, health programs and the medical profession itself will finally be able to see the range and extent of payments by industry to physicians and teaching hospitals.

“We applaud CMS for their work to collect, manage, and make publicly report millions of pieces of data concerning the full range of types of payments to hundreds of thousands of physicians. Making this staggering amount of information available to consumers and the public is a herculean task of great importance to patients, consumers and the public.

“Community Catalyst has been working with other consumer and provider organizations to make these industry payments transparent since 2007. We commend our allies in states like Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota who created the nation’s first transparency requirements under state law, and former Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for successfully championing this important reform in Congress.”

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About Community Catalyst
Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org.

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