Government Website Created for Physician Sunshine Act

For years, the pharmaceutical industry has targeted physicians and teaching hospitals to help them market their products. Drug companies provide free samples of their product for physician’s to use and offer lucrative opportunities for those who promote their drug, including gifts, dining and entertainment, lecturing opportunities in resort destinations and other forms of payment. This relationship helps the pharmaceutical company and the physician but not necessarily the patient. A physician who is being paid to promote a product may not be objective when determining the most effective medication for a patient.

The various issues resulting from the unethical relationship between healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies has led to the implementation of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which requires pharmaceutical manufacturers to report “payments” to physicians and teaching hospitals for the promotion of their drugs.

On February 8, 2013, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule implementing the Physician Payments Sunshine Act. Now, CMS has released the official website on the National Physician Payment Transparency Program, also known as OPENPAYMENTS, in order to make relationships between manufacturers, group purchasing organizations (GPOs), physicians, and teaching hospitals transparent and publicly available.

The OPENPAYMENTS website is designed to create transparency regarding the financial relationship that exists between industry, physicians, and teaching hospitals. As such, CMS is aiming to 1) reduce conflicts of interest for physicians and hospitals when it comes to the medical products they use, and 2) empower consumers of healthcare to make informed decisions.

Starting August 1, through OPENPAYMENTS, applicable manufacturers and GPOs will inform CMS every year about payments and applicable transfers of value of more than $10 given to physicians and hospitals by manufacturers of medical supplies, drugs, devices, and biologics covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Additionally, any ownership or investments in manufacturers or GPOs made by physicians or their immediate family will be reported. Registrations and data submission will begin in 2014.

Once submission has begun, hospitals and physicians will be able to register with CMS to review data concerning them, dispute any information they believe is incorrect, and work to resolve mistake and disputes.

Initial data will be posted by September 30, 2014 and will be posted annually on June 30 afterward. In the coming months, the website will feature general information, resources, fact sheets, tools, instructions, dates of webinars, calls, and meetings, and frequently asked questions.
CMS has stated that they wish OPENPAYMENTS to be a national resource for “beneficiaries, consumers, and providers to better understand relationships between doctors, teaching hospitals, and industry.”

By being more informed about the relationships of medical care providers and manufacturers, patients can help protect themselves and better defend their rights and wellbeing in the event that they are harmed by a defective medical product. By pursuing legal action, they may receive compensation for past and future losses, as well as needed help for recovery.