Physicians accepting drug company perks prescribe more opioids — 4 insights

A study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, claims physicians who accepted free meals and other perks from opioid-manufacturing drug companies were more likely to prescribe opioids to their patients, Medscape reports.

Researchers used two databases to assess how opioid product marketing impacted total prescriptions. Researchers analyzed data for 369,139 physicians who prescribed opioids through Medicare Part D.

Here's what they found.

1. Approximately 7 percent of physicians accepted 105,368 nonresearch payments totaling approximately $9 million in 2014.

2. Physicians in these three specialties were most likely to accept nonresearch payments, along with how much they accepted:

  • Pain medicine specialists — $2.9 million
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists — $1.8 million
  • Anesthesiologists — $1.4 million

3. These drug companies paid the most in nonresearch payments in 2014:

  • Insys Therapeutics: $4.5 million
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals: $869,155
  • Janssen Pharmaceuticals: $854,251

4. Scott Hadland, MD, of the Grayken Center for Addiction at Boston Medical Center and a study co-author, preferred to give physicians the benefit of the doubt. He believes the majority wouldn't think they're affected by pharmaceutical marketing, but added, "What this study really shows is that the effect is small, but when it's enacted over large populations of hundreds of thousands of doctors, it makes a big difference."

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