Pharma Gave US Doctors $3.5 Billion in 5 Months

Rob Wipond
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“Opening the book on long-hidden industry relationships, the federal government revealed nearly $3.5 billion worth of payments and other ties that U.S. doctors and teaching hospitals have with drug and medical-device companies,” reports the Los Angeles Times. The long-awaited product of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, though, is being universally panned for its poor usability.

The Times reports that the “new federal website includes 4.4 million payments made during the last five months of 2013. More data will be published next summer. Officials said the data cover financial transactions involving about 546,000 physicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals across the country.”

WSJ Pharmalot says the database “toggles the mind” and ProPublica describes it as “virtually unusable” and “worthy of a recall.” ProPublica describes how it managed to access the data, and also provides basic information and an app to allow easy searches on specific doctors, institutions and regions of the country.

Government reveals $3.5 billion in industry ties to doctors, hospitals (Los Angeles Times, September 30, 2014)

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments

What We’ve Learned From Four Years of Diving Into Dollars for Docs (ProPublica, September 29, 2014)

Analysis: Government’s New Doctor Payments Website Worthy of a Recall (ProPublica, October 1, 2014)

Dollars for Docs (ProPublica App)

So Much for Transparency: Open Payments Database Toggles the Mind (WSJ Pharmalot, October 2, 2014)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a freelance journalist who writes frequently on the interfaces between psychiatry, civil rights, the justice system, and social change. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, nine Western Magazine Awards, and five Webster Awards for journalism. He is currently working on a book about people's experiences of forced psychiatric treatment, and can be contacted through his website.

8 COMMENTS

  1. A “regular” doctor I was considering going to was one of these folks as according to her background, she had consulted with several drug companies. I found that very offensive.

    Now if I had felt she might be the best option in spite of these connections, I would have overlooked it. But ultimately, I decided to look elsewhere.

  2. It would interesting to know how much of this money trickled down to these doctors needy patients. If pharma freely gave this money to doctors who didn’t earn it then you might see this kind of charitable gift giving to be repeated by these doctors to their needy patients. If trickle down economics is real then you should see it here.

  3. Doctors, specially psychiatrists or those who prescribe psychoactive drugs, have become de facto street drug dealers. I think that they should be treated in the same way we treat the latter: they should be stigmatized for being enablers on the massive adoption of psychoactive drugs by society.

    Realizing that is what made me change my position from being against legalization of so called “illegal drugs” to being for the legalization of all so called “drugs” in the way we legalized alcohol (with a drugging minimum age, social stigma attached to consumption of these drugs, etc).

    I see no difference between a doctor pushing for children to take Ritalin and a durg dealer who distributes crack cocaine among teenagers. The effect on the victim’s brain is the same. Yet the street drug dealer risks jail if caught while the Ritalin pushing so called “doctor” gets paid by the rest of us through our insurance premiums and by the big pharma drug cartel.

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