Drug companies have paid Dr. Oz more than $1.5 million since 2013

Pharmaceutical companies paid Dr. Mehmet Oz more than $US1.5 million between the last five months of 2013 and 2014, according to a review of ProPublica’s Dollars for Docs site and the Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services data that’s been released in an effort to make the relationships between doctors and pharmaceutical companies more transparent.

The Affordable Care Act required drug and medical device companies to reveal how much they pay doctors and teaching hospitals as part of the Open Payments program.

It’s important to note that financial relationships between physicians and drug and device companies “do not necessarily signal wrongdoing,” according to Shantanu Agrawal, a deputy administrator at the Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services, who spoke to reporters when the data was first released in 2014.

But money may affect doctors’ decisions about their patients and about the products they support.

The idea behind the Sunshine Act, which is the component of the ACA that made this public in the first place, is that shedding some light on the huge amounts of money exchanged between pharmaceutical companies and healthcare providers may eventually make these payments less ubiquitous and in turn save the healthcare system money.

Our review was prompted by a Tweet by Francis Perry Wilson, an assistant professor of medicine at Yale University.

The CMS database shows that Oz was paid more than $US1.2 million in 2014. Most of that comes from Covidien Sales LLC, which, according to MedPageToday, paid him for “his ownership stake in HET Systems, a company which sells a hemorrhoid energy therapy system.”

As Vox reports, Oz did promote the treatment in one of his syndicated columns, and did include a disclosure that he “helped develop” the therapy — though Vox also points to an essay in the journal BMJ that argues that disclosure doesn’t necessarily eliminate conflict of interest.

ProPublica’s database, which also includes transactions that occurred in the last five months of 2013, shows more than $US1.5 million in total paid to Oz. That database also says that Oz received more than any of the other 247 doctors with his specialty — Allopathic & Osteopathic Physicians/Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular Surgery) — in the state of New York.

Oz has been called before a US Senate panel before for endorsing products on his TV show that weren’t supported by science, at which point he did admit that some of these products “don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact.” (He was not speaking specifically about HET Systems.)

Earlier this year, a group of top physicians asked that he be removed from his faculty position at Columbia University for his “egregious lack of integrity” and for his support of what they called “quack treatments.”

We’ve reached out to Dr. Oz’s press contacts and will update this post if we hear back.

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