The federal government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services yesterday began allowing pharmaceutical and medical device companies to register online for the new “Open Payments” website, authorized under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act to make more transparent the disclosure of financial interactions among physicians. The announcement is a critical first step to bring transparency to those relationships, protect and inform patients, and instill greater confidence in physicians and the health care system overall.
The Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires companies to publicly disclose payments and gifts of $10 or more to physicians. Following passage of the bill, regulations issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, set a deadline of Sept. 30, 2014, for the public launch of the Open Payments website. That is when patients will be able access the database and see whether drug makers and medical device manufacturers have made payments to their doctors.
The agency's regulations originally stipulated that companies submit their data by March 31, 2013, but a new timeline now gives them until August 1 to submit data—just two months before the public launch of the website. The data will cover gifts and payments made during the last five months of 2013, and physicians will have 60 days to review and dispute the information.
"We are glad to see that CMS has released a plan for data submission, but we are concerned by the significant delay,” says Dr. Daniel Carlat, director of Pew's prescription project. “The timeline seems almost impossibly tight, leaving little room for website refinement or testing. Given that physicians will have 60 days to review and dispute the data after it is submitted, it is difficult to imagine that the website will be ready for prime time by September 30.”
Carlat adds that the web site has already been delayed too long. “Consumers deserve to know whether their doctors have financial relationships with companies that make drugs they are prescribing,” he says. “Federal law demands that transparency. Further delay is simply unacceptable.”
The Pew Prescription Project seeks to ensure transparency in the physician-industry relationships and promotes policies to reduce or manage conflicts of interest that could affect patient care.