Open Pay­ments web­site should en­sure ac­cu­racy

Modern Healthcare - - COMMENT -

I was happy to be in­volved in the re­cent Mod­ern Healthcare ar­ti­cle on biosim­i­lars nam­ing, “Fate of cost-sav­ing biosim­i­lar drugs may hinge on nam­ing pol­icy” (July 6, p. 7), and thank the pub­li­ca­tion for cor­rect­ing the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pay­ment at­trib­uted to my name. There are two rheuma­tol­o­gists named Kent Hus­ton in our prac­tice (the other is my fa­ther), and the pay­ments listed un­der my name to­taled $446.62 while his to­taled $1,399.75. The com­bined to­tal was mis­tak­enly used for the ar­ti­cle in­stead of just mine.

What I find alarm­ing is the er­ror in the num­ber re­ported on the CMS Open Pay­ments web­site it­self, be­cause it should ac­tu­ally be closer to zero. Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies some­times spon­sor lunches at our of­fice when they would like to speak to the group. I do not par­tic­i­pate in the lunches (do not speak with the reps or eat the food), but my fa­ther does. He is able to glean use­ful in­for­ma­tion from reps, such as pro­grams that help pa­tients with ac­cess to ex­pen­sive med­i­ca­tions. I pre­fer to avoid in­ter­ac­tions with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies that in­volve pay­ments (in this case, sand­wiches, chips, pizza, drinks, etc.). I don’t see ei­ther ap­proach as right or wrong, but just a per­sonal de­ci­sion.

How­ever, there is clearly a prob­lem in at­tribut­ing pay­ments to the cor­rect physi­cian. Un­for­tu­nately, reps are not al­ways ac­cu­rate in re­port­ing who re­ceived lunch. The CMS web­site also lacks mid­dle ini­tials, mak­ing it even eas­ier to con­fuse physi­cians. Last year, I dis­cussed this with reps from var­i­ous com­pa­nies and dis­puted a num­ber of charges, which were then re­moved. I had not re-checked the Open Pay­ments web­site un­til this ar­ti­cle was pub­lished and was sur­prised that pay­ments con­tin­ued to be as­so­ci­ated with my name de­spite me not ac­cept­ing any­thing of value from drug com­pa­nies.

I do not have an eth­i­cal is­sue with phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies spon­sor­ing a few lunches, and I do not think physi­cian prac­tice is be­ing in­flu­enced by the price of a sand­wich. In fact, the lunches ac­tu­ally of­fer an op­por­tu­nity for dialog and to share rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion. How­ever, I do feel strongly that the Open Pay­ments web­site is not ac­cu­rate, and the only sure way of avoid­ing fu­ture in­ac­cu­ra­cies is to re­strict phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal reps from bring­ing any­thing of po­ten­tial value to our prac­tice. I hope the web­site can be made more ac­cu­rate in the fu­ture, since bad in­for­ma­tion is worse than no in­for­ma­tion.

Dr. Kent K. Hus­ton

Kansas City, Mo.

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