Types and Distribution of Payments From Industry to Physicians in 2015

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Abstract

Importance

Given scrutiny over financial conflicts of interest in health care, it is important to understand the types and distribution of industry-related payments to physicians.

Objective

To determine the types and distribution of industry-related payments to physicians in 2015 and the association of physician specialty and sex with receipt of payments from industry.

Design, Setting, and Participants

Observational, retrospective, population-based study of licensed US physicians (per National Plan & Provider Enumeration System) linked to 2015 Open Payments reports of industry payments. A total of 933 295 allopathic and osteopathic physicians. Outcomes were compared across specialties (surgery, primary care, specialists, interventionalists) and between 620 166 male (66.4%) and 313 129 female (33.6%) physicians using regression models adjusting for geographic Medicare-spending region and sole proprietorship.

Exposures

Physician specialty and sex.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Reported physician payment from industry (including nature, number, and value), categorized as general payments (including consulting fees and food and beverage), ownership interests (including stock options, partnership shares), royalty or license payments, and research payments. Associations between physician characteristics and reported receipt of payment.

Results

In 2015, 449 864 of 933 295 physicians (133 842 [29.8%] women), representing approximately 48% of all US physicians were reported to have received $2.4 billion in industry payments, including approximately $1.8 billion for general payments, $544 million for ownership interests, and $75 million for research payments. Compared with 47.7% of primary care physicians (205 830 of 431 819), 61.0% of surgeons (110 604 of 181 372) were reported as receiving general payments (absolute difference, 13.3%; 95% CI, 13.1-13.6; odds ratio [OR], 1.72; P < .001). Surgeons had a mean per-physician reported payment value of $6879 (95% CI, $5895-$7862) vs $2227 (95% CI, $2141-$2314) among primary care physicians (absolute difference, $4651; 95% CI, $4014-$5288). After adjusting for geographic spending region and sole proprietorship, men within each specialty had a higher odds of receiving general payments than did women: surgery, 62.5% vs 56.5% (OR, 1.28; 95% CI, 1.26-1.31); primary care, 50.9% vs 43.0% (OR, 1.38; 95% CI, 1.36-1.39); specialists, 36.3% vs 33.4% (OR, 1.15; 95% CI, 1.13-1.17); and interventionalists, 58.1% vs 40.7% (OR, 2.03; 95% CI, 1.97-2.10; P < .001 for all tests). Similarly, men reportedly received more royalty or license payments than did women: surgery, 1.2% vs 0.03% (OR, 43.20; 95% CI, 25.02-74.57); primary care, 0.02% vs 0.002% (OR, 9.34; 95% CI, 4.11-21.23); specialists, 0.08% vs 0.01% (OR, 3.67; 95% CI, 1.71-7.89); and for interventionalists, 0.13% vs 0.04% (OR, 7.98; 95% CI, 2.87-22.19; P < .001 for all tests).

Conclusions and Relevance

According to data from 2015 Open Payments reports, 48% of physicians were reported to have received a total of $2.4 billion in industry-related payments, primarily general payments, with a higher likelihood and higher value of payments to physicians in surgical vs primary care specialties and to male vs female physicians.

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