Are pharmaceutical marketing payments to physicians for opioids associated with prescribing?

May 14, 2018

BottomLine: Pharmaceutical industry marketing of opioid products to physicians through nonresearch payments, which can include speaking fees and meals, was associated with greater opioid prescribing.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Many opioid-related overdose deaths involve prescription opioids, and prescription opioids can commonly be a person's first encounter on a path to illicit use. Marketing by the pharmaceutical industry to physicians is widespread but marketing of opioids and its influence on prescribing is unclear.

What (Study Methods): Linking of two U.S databases to identify all nonresearch payments from the pharmaceutical industry to physicians marketing opioid products (excluding buprenorphine hydrochloride marketed for addiction treatment) and to gather information on all claims from physicians who wrote opioid prescriptions (initial or refill) filled for Medicare beneficiaries in 2015

Authors: Scott E. Hadland, M.D., M.P.H., M.S., of Boston Medical Center, and coauthors

Study Limitations: Possibility of reverse causation because physicians who receive industry payments may be inclined to prescribe opioids; study establishes association, not cause and effect

Related Material: Two other studies, "Weekly and Monthly Subcutaneous Buprenorphine Depot Formulations vs. Daily Sublingual Buprenorphine with Naloxone for Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder: A Randomized Clinical Trial," and "Association of an Opioid Standard of Practice Intervention with Intravenous Opioid Exposure in Hospitalized Patients," also are available on the For The Media website.
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For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.1999)

Editor's Note: The article contains funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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JAMA Internal Medicine

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