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Doctors Receive Billions from Drug Companies

Oct 3, 2014

Drug and medical device companies pay billions to doctors, according to an online database compiled by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Between August 1st and December 31st, 2013 U.S. Physicians and teaching hospitals were paid at least $3.5 billion from drug and medical device makers. According to The Wall Street Journal, the database was created in an effort to convey greater transparency.

According to WSJ, the transparency initiative was prompted by fears that doctors' prescribing actions were swayed by money and gifts received from companies. The database, which was released on Tuesday, intends to reduce the risk of this occurrence and provide useful information to patients. CMS said that recipients aren't identified in about 40 percent of the payment information due to data issues.

“This website will let patients ask a very important question: 'Is a relationship between my doctor and a drug company right for me?' It took six years of hard work to get this site together and, hopefully, it will help clean up medicine," said Paul Thacker, a former aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and a current fellow at the Safra Ethics Center at Harvard University wiho was closely involved in efforts to pass the Sunshine Act.

Some of the payments were astoundingly high, WSJ reports. For example, City of Hope medical center in Duarte, California received $122.5 million from Genentech unit Roche Holding AG for royalties on sales of several products, including the blockbuster cancer treatments Herceptin and Avastin.

According to WSJ, an estimated 546,000 doctors and 1,360 teaching hospitals received payments and so-called transfers of values, WSJ reports. This includes free meals brought to doctors' offices, clinical trial research, consulting fees and free meals brought to their offices. Some doctors were paid tens of thousands of dollars to give paid speeches while some surgeons were paid even more part from royalties on products they helped develop.

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