Doctors received $6.5 billion from drug and device companies in 2015

By Carolyn Y. Johnson

(Rachel Orr/The Washington Post)

(Rachel Orr/The Washington Post)

This story has been updated.

Doctors received $6.5 billion worth of payments — including meals, research grants and charitable contributions from drug and medical device companies in the last year, according to new data released Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They also owned a little over $1 billion in stock in the industry.

The financial relationships between 618,000 doctors and 1,110 teaching hospitals and nearly 1,500 companies are required to be disclosed under a provision in the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as the “Physician Payments Sunshine Act,” because it aims to reveal the breadth and extent of the relationships between doctors and companies.

Drug companies have long argued that such relationships are necessary for education, but critics say these payments are powerful marketing tools that can distort the use of health care in ways that drive up spending or lead to medical decisions that follow a company’s commercial interests instead of the best medicine.

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The top three companies gave more than $1.4 billion to doctors and hospitals. The biggest giver was Novartis, which reported $539 million in payments. Genentech provided $470 million in payments, followed closely by Pfizer, with $436 million.

A Novartis spokeswoman said in an email that the company thinks “interactions with physicians and teaching hospitals play a critical role in advancing patient care and helping ensure that medicines are being used appropriately.”

“Collaboration between physicians and biopharmaceutical professionals is critical to improving the health and quality of life of patients,” Holly Campbell, a spokeswoman for the trade organization Phrma wrote in an email. “Physicians also provide real-world insights and valuable feedback to companies about their medicines to improve patient care.”

The American …read more