Doctors issue more opioid prescriptions after pharma reps buy lunch

Lester Mason
May 15, 2018

Receipt of opioid-related payments from industry in 2014 was associated with increased opioid prescribing in 2015, according to a research letter published online May 14 in JAMA Internal Medicine. Opioid prescriptions rose an average of nine percent when a doctor received payments from the pharmaceutical industry, the researchers estimated.

In this study, researchers linked data about payments from pharmaceutical companies in the Open Payments database with information about claims from physicians who wrote opioid prescriptions for Medicare beneficiaries in the Medicare Part D Opioid Prescriber Summary File.

Though the study didn't prove that the increased prescription rates were a direct result of the meals, prior studies suggest that all payments-not just meals-are associated with increased prescribing, wrote lead author Dr. Scott Hadland, a professor at Boston University School of Medicine, in an email.

According to the CDC, 46 people die every day from prescription opioid overdoses.


Insys Therapeutics, a fentanyl manufacturer now mired in federal investigation, spent the most of any drug maker on various payments to physicians. Insys Therapeutics, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA and Janssen Pharmaceuticals (Janssen is a subsidiary of medical giant Johnson & Johnson) were the companies that dished out the highest payments. The gifts included payments, speaking fees, and free meals.

Meal payments with a median value of just $13 (interquartile range, $11-$17) were reported for 25,471 physicians.

Despite the national focus on massive payments to physicians, only 436 doctors - 1.7 percent of those receiving marketing - took payments that exceeded $1,000. In contrast, those who received ≥10 had a mean of over 700 claims. They paid $4.5 million a year to doctors. "Fewer than 1 in 50 doctors received big payments".

With the opioid epidemic getting worse in the United States, researchers believe that some doctors are prescribing too many opioids because of the perks that they receive from drug companies.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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