News Feature | February 4, 2015

Open Payments Continue To Be Problematic

Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

Mobile Payment Hospitals

Misspelled drug names, mixed up payments, and more continue to plague CMS’ Open Payments Website.

In August, CMS’ Open Payments suffered from a glitch that shut down the entire website. Access to the online records was suspended after doctors of the same name noticed they were credited with payments made to the other. Shortly after, CMS announced that one third of records would be withheld at the time of the Open Payments launch. “CMS takes data integrity very seriously and took swift action after a physician reported a problem,” said the agency.

But that was not the end of reported problems. According to ProPublica/New York Times’ “The Upshot”, errors continue to plague the system. Not only that, but CMS says it’s not responsible for errors made by drug companies. “We are very committed to not altering data,” said Shantanu Agrawal, director of the agency's Center for Program Integrity. “Our role is not to spell-check for the industry. The act of transparency also will improve the data itself.”

Some of the reported errors include, according to iHealth Beat:

  • misspelled names of drugs
  • payments for a single drug were sometimes recorded under multiple names
  • payments not connected to specific products
  • subsidiaries of one drug maker recorded payments for the same drugs

Analysis of the website by ProPublica also found:

  • the name of Forest Laboratories' depression drug, Fetzima, was misspelled 953 times
  • about 8.5 percent of the 4.3 million payments were not connected to specific products
  • Questcor Pharmaceuticals recorded payments for H.P. Acthar Gel, its drug for conditions such as kidney disease, under eight different names
  • more than 140 drug makers did not list product names in their records
  • five Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries reported payments for its diabetes drug Invokana

Taking into account the massive amounts of information that the database has accumulated, “it's not surprising to me that there are some errors out there,” said John Murphy, PhRMA's assistant general counsel. As time goes on, he said, “I'd suspect this stuff will get much more streamlined and much better.”