Genentech, the maker of Avastin and other expensive cancer drugs, paid physicians and teaching hospitals more than any other drug or device company in 2014, according to a new round of data published Tuesday on the CMS' Open Payments website.
The data reveal payments made for research, gifts, speaking fees, meals and travel.
South San Francisco-based Genentech, now a subsidiary of Roche, disclosed $295.4 million in general payments made in 2014, almost four times as much as AstraZeneca, the company with the next highest tally. The majority of that sum—$254.9 million—reflects royalty payments made to City of Hope, the California comprehensive cancer center that holds the patents on research underlying Genentech's biggest drugs, Avastin, Rituxan and Herceptin.
Genentech also noted in a statement that it paid one physician $2.8 million and another $10.1 million to fulfill agreements they had with Seragon, a company Genentech acquired last year.
The median amount from all companies paid to physicians in 2014 was $233,376, and 125 companies paid more than $1 million. All told, the top 10 companies paid $709 million.
The Open Payments database was created under the Physician Payments Sunshine Act provision of the Affordable Care Act. The disclosures were promoted by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and other lawmakers as a way to expose and reduce financial conflicts of interest in medicine.
The data set posted Tuesday reflects the first full year of reporting since the initiative launched. A partial data set for 2013 was posted last September. The CMS logged 11.4 million disclosures from 1,444 companies for payments made in 2014. They add up to $6.49 billion paid to 607,000 physicians and 1,121 teaching hospitals.
“Consumer access to information is a key component of delivery system reform and making the healthcare system perform better,” acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt said in a news release. “In year two, Open Payments is now a highly searchable resource to provide transparency to over 1 1/2 years' worth of financial transactions between drug and device companies and physicians and teaching hospitals.”
Novo Nordisk compensated providers with the highest frequency. The company reported nearly 250,000 payments in connection with the diabetes drug Levemir for a total of $5.4 million.
Physicians have criticized the Open Payments reporting system because it places a burden on them to check the accuracy of disclosures made by drug and device companies.
The American Medical Association issued a statement after Tuesday's release asserting the "vast majority" of the data was never vetted by physicians.
"The complicated and cumbersome process for physicians to register to review their data and seek correction of any inaccuracies continues to hinder their participation in the validation process," the AMA said.
The CMS said Tuesday that it is working with doctors and hospital to increase the review rate. About 30% of the disclosures for 2014 were reviewed by providers, the CMS said.
The median sum received by physicians was $2,318.
The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, located in Boston, accepted $15.4 million, the largest tally among U.S. teaching hospitals. The MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas accepted $11.2 million, the second-highest amount.
The CMS has made significant improvements to the Open Payments website to make it easier for people to search financial transactions (the site was widely panned when it debuted). Officials promised further refinements this summer.
“CMS' role is to facilitate discussion and analysis of the data by making it publicly available for consumers and researchers,” Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, the agency's director of program integrity, said in the CMS news release.
(Correction: An earlier version of this story was modified to explain that most of the payments disclosed by Genentech reflect royalty payments to City of Hope. The original version also misstated the number and value of research payments made by medical device maker Biotronik in 2014. The correct number of research payments was 27,537 for a total of $6,091,651. It also misstated the total value of research payments made by drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb. The correct number was $221 million.)