A number of spelling and reporting errors were found throughout the open payments data website.
- In September 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released the first round of Open Payments data. As part of the Sunshine Act, physicians and teaching hospitals were required to release information on payments received from drug and device manufacturers.
In the initial offerings included numbers from 546,000 individual physicians and almost 1,360 teaching hospitals. It was a total of 4.4 million payments that are valued at $3.5 billion. In December, the information was refreshed and 68,000 records were added.
The goal of the program is to add a layer of transparency to the healthcare system. By knowing who is paying physicians and teaching hospitals, patients will have a better idea of whether their judgement or treatment recommendations might be biased. However, the system has had a rocky road so far.
When it launched, 39 percent of payments were de-identified, because the vetting process had not been completed. On top of that, many believed the collection time frame (five months) was not long enough to make an accurate assessment of the data or for both sides to insure that the numbers submitted were accurate.
Now, a new issue with the database has been raised, and it has to do with the accuracy of the information. An article co-published by the New York Times’ “The Upshot” and ProPublical, the data on the website is riddled with factual and spelling errors.
The article features the results of an analysis of the website. It found drug companies that misspelled the name of their drugs and products multiple times. In one instance the depressing drug Fetzima was spelled “Fetziima” 953 times. In another case, medical device company Amedica Corp. called its Preference screw system “Preferance.”
The problem was uncovered as the new sources was attempted to find the most prevalent drugs and products listed on the website. They noticed the information looked off and upon further investigation discovered the spelling mistakes.
“We are very committed to not altering data,” Shantanu Agrawal, director of CMS’ Center for Program Integrity, told the news source. “Our role is not to spell-check for the industry. The act of transparency also will improve the data itself.”
Agrawal did add, however, that as mistakes were brought to light, CMS would work to correct them.
Other issues discovered include:
•Payments associated with a single drug listed under multiple names.
•About 8.5 percent of 4.3 million general payments were not for a specific product.
•Companies listed products as “unrecognized.”
•Products listed under the wrong category.
•Payments made for multiple drugs and products were not broken up.
•Payments for multiple drugs had the same drug listed multiple times.
•Subsidiaries listed payments for one drug multiple times.
John Murphy, assistant general counsel at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said that mistakes like this are understandable, as it is the first year data like this has been collected.
“It’s not surprising… that there are some errors out there,” Murphy said. “I’d suspect this stuff will get much more streamlined and much better.”