From the Journals

Marketing perks increased opioid prescriptions


Key clinical point: Doctors who received nonresearch payments on average had a higher number of opioid prescriptions than those who did not.

Major finding: Receiving a nonresearch payment from a pharmaceutical company was associated with about 9.3% more opioid claims.

Study details: Record analysis of 369,139 physicians collected from the Open Payments database and the Medicare Part D Opioid Prescriber Summary File for the years 2014 and 2015.

Disclosures: Dr. Hadland and his team report no relevant financial disclosures.

Source: S Hadland et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 May 14. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.1999.



Physicians who received nonresearch payments from pharmaceutical companies prescribed nearly 10% more opioids in the following year, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

With 40% of opioid-related deaths still coming from prescription opioids, understanding how marketing influences prescriber habits could lead to the creation of specific policies to lower the number of prescription drugs exchanging hands and save lives.

A woman holds opioid pills. Liderina/Thinkstock
“Amidst national efforts to curb the over-prescribing of opioids, our findings suggest that manufacturers should consider a voluntary decrease or complete cessation of marketing to physicians,” wrote Scott Hadland, MD, pediatrician and addiction specialist at Boston University. “Federal and state governments should also consider legal limits on the number and amount of payments.”

Dr. Hadland and his colleagues conducted a comparative analysis of opioid prescriptions from 2014 and 2015, retrieved from the Medicare Part D Opioid Prescriber Summary File and cross referenced that information with all recorded transactions from companies to physicians in 2014 from the Open Payments database.

In 2015, a total of 369,139 physicians were recorded prescribing opioids to Medicare patients. About 25,767 (7%) received a combined total of 105,368 “nonresearch opioid-related payments” with a sum total of $9,071,976 in 2014.

While Medicare opioid claims went down in 2015, physicians who received these payments, on average, prescribed 9.3% more opioids than those who did not, according to investigators.

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