The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released a large set of data about the payments physicians and teaching hospitals received from pharmaceutical and medical device companies from August 1 to December 31, 2013. This public disclosure, mandated under a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, aims to improve transparency regarding the financial relationships of manufacturers, physicians, and teaching hospitals.
The American Society of Hematology (ASH) supports greater transparency to improve the quality of health care. However, data are only beneficial if they are complete and accurate. Data released [in the report] are incomplete and may also contain errors, as some physicians may not have been able to dispute and correct their records during a designated review period and approximately one-third of data to be released today will not be made public until next year. The release of these incomplete data without appropriate disclosures and/or explanatory statements as to their limitations and potential misinterpretations may result in inaccurate and misleading information about physicians and teaching hospitals.
While transparency about industry-physician relationships is critically important, industry support of medicine should not be cast in a negative light. Research and development sponsored by the biomedical/pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in biomedical research and has paved the way for significant scientific discoveries that have benefitted millions of patients. ■