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U.S. doctors, hospitals paid billions by drug, device makers: government

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Doctors and hospitals in the United States received $7.52 billion in payments and ownership and investment interests from the makers of drugs and medical devices in 2015, according to data released by a government health agency.

The data includes payments for items and services such as food and beverage, travel, education, honoraria as well as research, and is based on information related to 618,000 doctors, more than 1,110 teaching hospitals and 1,456 companies.

The Open Payments program, which was created under the Affordable Care Act healthcare reform with the aim of improving transparency, requires drug and device manufacturers to report payments to healthcare providers for items like speaking engagements about their products and research grants.

The report allows individuals to track payments to their physicians by drug companies. The need for greater transparency was spawned by concerns that physician prescribing habits and choices could be driven by payments from pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

The program reported $2.6 billion in general payments, $3.89 billion in research payments and $1.02 billion of ownership or investment interests.

This is the third annual report in the program, which has a searchable website. In 2014, payments totaled $7.49 billion.

The agency said it had determined that 2.26 percent of all financial transactions between pharmaceutical companies and physicians were related to opioid medications.

Among companies with the highest payments is the largest U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc, which made $44.7 million in total general payments and $391.7 million in research payments.

Merck & Co made $34.4 million in general payments and $128 million in research payments, according to the searchable database. Amgen Inc, another big drugmaker, made $31.4 million in general payments and $222.2 million in total research payments.

Allergan Inc made $35.6 million in general payments and $27.5 million in research payments and Actavis Inc - which now goes by the name Allergan after a merger - made $13.4 million in general payments and $36.6 million in research payments, according to the database.

Amgen said it supports initiatives that bring greater transparency to interactions between industry and healthcare providers. Such collaboration “contributes to bringing innovative medicines and therapies to patients,” the company said in an emailed statement.

Merck declined to comment, while representatives for the other companies were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Caroline Humer, additional reporting by Deena Beasley; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis

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