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Financial relationships between neurologists and industry: The 2015 Open Payments database

Objective

To analyze research and nonresearch payments from the pharmaceutical and device industry to neurologists in 2015 using the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Open Payments database.

Methods

In this retrospective database analysis, we computed the percentage of neurologists in the United States receiving payments, the median/mean payments per neurologist, payment categories, regional trends, and sponsors. We computed the number of practicing neurologists from the Association of American Medical Colleges State Physician Workforce data book, 2015.

Results

In 2015, approximately 51% of US neurologists received nonresearch payments totaling $6,210,414. The median payment per physician was $81. Payments to the top 10% of compensated neurologists amounted to $5,278,852 (84.5%). Food and beverage was the most frequent category (86.5% of the total number of payments). The highest amount was paid for serving as faculty/speaker for noncontinuing medical education activities (58%). The top sponsor of nonresearch payments was Teva Pharmaceuticals ($1,162,900; 18.5%). A total of 412 neurologists received $2,921,611 in research payments (median $1,132). Multiple sclerosis specialists received the largest proportion ($285,537; 9.7%). Daiichi Sankyo paid the largest amount in research payments ($826,029; 28%).

Conclusions

The Open Payments program was established to foster transparent disclosure of physician compensation from industry, in response to legislative and public concerns over the effect of conflicts of interest on practice, education, and research. The effects of this program remain unclear and studies of changes in prescribing practices, costs, and other outcomes are necessary. CMS should ensure that incorrect information can be rectified quickly and easily.

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