Hospitals and medical professionals are reportedly making billions of dollars from drug manufacturers and medical device companies. According to data released by the U.S. government, doctors and teaching hospitals had $3.5 billion in financial ties with these companies in the last five months of 2013.

For the first time, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, shared the information in a database on its website. Under the Affordable Care Act, companies are now required to disclose this information. Some consumer advocates believe making this data public will cut down on the use of drugs or medical devices based on how much money the manufacturers shell out.

From August to December of 2013, nearly 550,000 doctors and 1,360 teaching hospitals received some form of compensation. The payments fall into two categories: money to fund research, and compensation to doctors for consulting and services not related to research. It includes everything from royalties hospitals receive for helping develop products to fees paid to medical experts to speak at events.

Genentech, a division of Roche Holding AG, spent the most of any company in non-research payments at $135 million. Coming in second was Johnson & Johnson with $68 million.

Leading in money for research was Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., which paid out $329 million. The company said most of that went to cover the cost of experimental medicines in clinical studies. Bristol-Myers also paid $11.9 million to doctors and hospitals for consulting, travel and other expenses.

A representative with CMS said in a statement this data does not “identify which financial relationships are beneficial and which could cause conflicts of interest.” Physicians and research hospitals defend collaboration of industries and say it is essential to creating life-saving treatments and medical advancements. 

More data will be published in June, and consumers will eventually be able to search for information about their own doctors. The website, which launched October 1, had technical issues; the Obama Administration said improvements are in the works.

For more information and to see the data, visit the CMS website.

 

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