In a startling new study by the Boston Medical Center that will surely help the numerous counties and states persecuting opioid manufactures and distributors for the nationwide addiction epidemic, it was shown that one in twelve doctors was paid personally by an opioid manufacturer in a effort to promote their products. [Read the full study HERE.]
Most payments mostly consisted of paying for a doctor’s meal (93% of cases) or speaking fee (63%), where they speak at a conference to talk about a drug. The study showed that even if a doctor was paid a small amount, it lead to a higher narcotic prescription rate. Opioid manufacturers paid 68,177 doctors in some capacity for a total of $46 million spent. 83% of the money was spent on only 700 doctors.
Furthermore, the states hit hardest by the crisis also were the state where the most payments were made. Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, which are some of the states hit hardest by the crisis, all are some of the states where doctors have received the most money in an effort to promote opioid use.
Names of both the physicians themselves and the pharmaceutical companies were not used in the report’s findings.
The data collected is from August of 2013 to December of 2015. A 2013 law required all pharmaceutical companies to disclose any money given to doctors for the purpose of marketing. Without this regulation, the analysis could not have been done.
Scott Hadland, the study’s author, states that opioids are unique in that “…they are one of the only medications in the U.S. in 2017 where there are active public health efforts to reduce the prescribing of.” The revelation that the smallest of these payments has such a large effect is particularly disturbing, Hadland additionally mentions.
Fentanyl is one such drug that was peddled by doctors to the public. Of the $46 million total, $21 million was used to push this narcotic onto doctors and, by extension, their patients. It is usually meant to treat pain in cancer and patients that are near death. However, due to its strength, it is a drug that causes a large amount of overdose deaths, especially when it is combined with heroin. Many addicts turn to heroin because it is stronger and cheaper than prescription painkillers.
While a causal link has been found, more research must be done to determine the true extent these payments had on the epidemic. Hopefully, this is done sooner than later; 2017 is likely to have a record number of overdoses.