Roche heads doctor, hospital payment league in 2014


The first full year of data collated by the US government on pharma company payments to doctors and hospitals reveals that Roche was the biggest spender in 2014, splashing out more than $430 million.

The bulk of that total – around $392 million – was spent by Roche's biologics subsidiary Genentech and was split between general payments for activities such as consultancy and speaking engagements ($292 million) and research payments ($100 million).

Overall, drugmakers paid $6.49 billion to doctors and teaching hospitals last year, made up of $2.56 billion in general payments and $3.23 billion in research funding, according to the figures from the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The largest beneficiary of Genentech's largesse among teaching hospitals was City Of Hope National Medical Centre in California, which received funding from the company to the tune of more than $250 million, far ahead of any other institution.

It should be noted that City of Hope does receive royalty payments from Genentech on sales of some of its biggest earners, including Avastin (bevacizumab), Rituxan (rituximab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab), so the figures are skewed compared to other big biopharma companies.

Drilling down into individual doctor payments, it emerges that New York oncologist Charles Sawyers of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre (MSKCC) was the largest recipient of Genentech payments, receiving more than $10 million in general payments last year, followed by fellow MSKCC cancer specialist Jose Baselga who got around $2.7 million from the company.

These payments stem from Genentech's $1 billion acquisition of Seragon in 2014, a company in which both Sawyers and Baselga were founding board members.

Novartis and Pfizer were also big spenders in 2014, making payments in the region of $300 million with around three quarters of the total going on research funding. GlaxoSmithKline also dug deep with payments of more than $200 million, including $177 million in research.

Taken together, European pharma companies accounted for more than $1.5 billion of the total, with Sanofi stumping up around $200 million and AstraZeneca (AZ) proffering in the region of $180 million.

The 2014 data is the second publication from the CMS of its Open Payments initiative, mandated by the recently-enacted US 'Sunshine Act'. The first instalment, released last year, included just five months of 2013 and revealed a total spend across that period of $3.4 billion.

From 2016, drugmakers will have to disclose payments to European doctors and healthcare institutions as well as those in the US under a new code of practice.

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UK pharma disclosure of payments: lessons from the US Sunshine Act

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Linda Banks

7 July, 2015