Help curb unethical practices by some doctors

Officials said the data cover financial transactions involving about 546,000 physicians and 1,360 teaching hospitals across the country.

Consumer advocates hope the increased disclosure will ultimately help curb unethical practices by some doctors who prescribe medications and devices after receiving large sums from manufacturers, possibly putting patient care at risk.

Physicians and academic medical centers defend industry collaboration as essential to advance research into life-saving treatments. They have also questioned the accuracy of the government data.

The Physician Payments Sunshine Act was included in the Affordable Care Act that President Obama signed in 2010 amid growing demands for more openness in the U.S. healthcare system, which historically has shielded doctors, hospitals and other medical providers from much public scrutiny.

“The Sunshine Act is a watershed moment,” said Susan Chimonas, associate director of research at Columbia University's Center on Medicine as a Profession. “It’s a tantalizing first look at what kind of industry ties doctors have.”

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