What Medical Specialties Receive Highest Payments from Manufacturers?

Open Payments database sheds light on payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies to physicians.

A recent study found internal medicine and orthopedic surgery received the highest payments from manufacturers at the tail end of 2013.

In the last 5 months of 2013, these specialties received the highest total value at $111 million each.

The Open Payments database, which allows for the public to search all pharmaceutical and medical device companies reported payments made to physicians, was made possible through the Physician Payments Sunshine Act that passed under the Affordable Care Act.

The study, published online in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, analyzed 2.4 million physician payments at a total of $475 million at the end of 2013.

"The research sheds light on how physicians are engaging with medical companies, and this information can be used by patients, policymakers and other stakeholders when making health care decisions," said principal investigator Jona Hattangadi-Gluth, MD.

They also found that the highest amount of physicians receiving payments were among cardiovascular and neurosurgical specialists.

Those who required more intervention received higher payments, which can be attributed to the dependency on devices that are used by the physicians.

Previously, physicians had to self-disclose their payments, which left researchers to rely on these disclosures to gain information. However, the surveys had the potential to be biased, due to the ability of physicians to choose what they disclose.

The new Open Payments database seeks to eliminate this, while providing researchers with a more accurate depiction of payments to physicians.

"During the last few decades, physicians have become much more engaged in the development of novel drugs and devices, which is critical to bringing innovation to patients," Dr. Hattangadi-Gluth said. "Certain specialties, like surgery, may require more research and involvement in device development, resulting in higher royalty and license payments. Our study not only identified how industry payments are distributed by specialty, it also helped put those payments in context."