(Updated at 7 p.m. ET)
Payments from drug and device companies to physicians and teaching hospitals increased slightly in 2015. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. paid the most by far.
All told, nearly 620,000 physicians and about 1,100 teaching hospitals received $7.52 billion in payments and ownership and investment interests in 2015, according to tallies compiled by the CMS. Last year's total was $7.49 billion.
Swiss drug giant Novartis paid out nearly $540 million. Novartis said in a statement Thursday that its position at the head of the pack reflects the company's "ongoing strong commitment to R&D leading to one of the most robust pipelines in the industry."
"Novartis believes that interactions with physicians and teaching hospitals play a critical role in advancing patient care and helping ensure that medicines are being used appropriately," the company said.
The next highest group was Roche subsidiary Genentech, which makes several expensive cancer drugs, at about $470 million. Most of the Genentech payments reflect royalties to City of Hope, the California comprehensive cancer center that holds the patents on research underlying Genentech's biggest drugs: Avastin, Rituxan and Herceptin.
About half of the overall payments were for research and $2.6 billion were in nonresearch related payments. A little more than $1 billion was ownership or investment interests.
Nuclear medicine physicians received the highest average payment, followed by doctors in neurological surgery, orthopedic surgery, radiology and neuromusculoskeletal medicine.
The American Medical Association, which has criticized the database for publishing data that is without context and often inaccurate, said in a statement Thursday that many physicians have not reviewed their data because of errors and registration challenges.
“The integrity goals of the Open Payments database will not be met as long as physician review is obstructed by a registration procedure that is confusing, time-consuming and overly burdensome,” the organization wrote.
Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt, however, called the database a “trusted consumer resource."
“This transparency, along with our other transparency programs, helps further our mission of achieving a high-quality health care system that ensures better care, access to coverage and improved health at lower cost,” Slavitt said in a news release.