OIG: Open payments database contained inaccuracies

Since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began publishing financial interactions between manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologicals and medical supplies and individual physicians and teaching hospitals, it has come under fire from industry groups over accuracy concerns.

A new report from the HHS' Office of Inspector General said that the Open Payments database needs some work—at least, the 2015 version did.

Looking at the 11.9 million records representing $7.5 billion in payments and ownership interests on the Open Payments website in 2015, the report said less than 1% were missing data elements required under the Sunshine Act.

As of a June 2018 update of the 2015 data, the number of records had increased to 12.4 million representing $8.4 billion in payments. 

Among the findings in the report: 

  • For at least 100,000 records, drug manufacturers entered text for drug and device names that were not specific enough to identify the products, with some entering text such as "no product specified." 
  • For about 9% of the records, or 1.1 million records, invalid drug codes were used. 
  • A small number of records—565—had a payment date that was either earlier or later than 2015. 

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The OIG recommended that CMS take a number of steps including ensuring that all records contained all required data, strengthening validation rules and revising data element definitions so that actual drug and device names must be reported, and revising device-name data so that information reported is required to be more specific. They also recommended that CMS ensure that manufacturers and group purchasing organizations report valid drug codes.

In a letter from CMS Administrator Seema Verma to the OIG last month, Verma said CMS developed a compliance strategy to achieve data accuracy and completeness and said her agency was concerned with OIG's recommendations.