- In October 2014, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched the Open Payments website to comply with one of the main provisions of the Physician Sunshine Payment Act of the Affordable Care Act—disclosing all payments to physicians and medical institutions from drug companies.
- For 2014 calculations, payments cover everything from product development, to R&D, to dinner speakers, and various types of consulting.
- The disclosures cover 607,000 doctors and 1,121 teaching hospitals.
The big picture with this story: $6.5 billion in payments from industry to physicians via various routes is not necessarily a shocking number. Rather, it's a relatively new peek into a standard transfer of resources between industry and physicians in exchange for much-needed information and expertise. At least that's the perspective of the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which asserts that collaboration between doctors and drugmakers can improve patient care.
However, there are those who believe that the payments are excessive and not always defensible in terms of the amount given for the specific service performed. In fact, sometimes the payments are given to physicians for simply showing up at a dinner in the role of "expert consultant"—though this practice has waned since its heyday 20 years ago.
All told, the transparency movement is shedding light on the intricate relationships between the biopharma industry and healthcare providers and experts. And regardless of how the numbers are interpreted, the movement towards a more transparent system is in and of itself a positive development.