One In 5 Family Medicine Doctors Accepts Payments From Pharmaceutical Companies Related To Opioids

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One In 5 Family Medicine Doctors Accepts Payments From Pharmaceutical Companies Related To Opioids

The first national study of its kind has found that 1 in 12 physicians and about 1 out of 5 family medicine doctors have received industry payments from pharmaceutical companies related to opioids.

Since the Physician Payment Sunshine Act of 2010 was implemented, every pharmaceutical company has been required to report any payments made to doctors in the U.S. This database permitted researchers at Boston Medical Center to conduct a comprehensive study in which they examined over 375,000 payments made by drug companies to more than 68,000 doctors.

These payments, which were made between August 2013-December 2015 were not research-related and were categorized as “transfers of value.” They included payments sent directly to doctors, as well as reimbursements for meals, travel, consulting, and speaking fees.

From the study:

“Most payments were for speaking fees or honoraria (63.2% of all dollars), whereas food and beverage payments were the most frequent (93.9% of all payments). Physicians specializing in anesthesiology received the most in total annual payments.”

The authors noted that they carefully examined all opioid medications and found that fentanyl was the most common drug linked to payments from drug companies. The next most frequently reported medication was OxyContin, made by Purdue Pharma.

Conversely, opioids designed to be abuse-deterrent were not associated with as many opioid-related payments to doctors. These formulations were linked to only 20% of the total payments, and buprenorphine, one of the most common treatments for opioid dependence, was associated with less than 10% of the money received.

Money received by the physicians from drug makers were not generally significant, but over time, began to total staggering figures. The average paid per doctor annually was just $15.

However, the top 1% were paid $2600 or more yearly. Collectively, these physicians were paid more than $38 million (receiving 82.5% of the total payments), and the payments received throughout the study totaled more than $41.6 million.

The authors concluded that approximately 1 in 12 U.S. physicians received a payment related to an opioid during the 29-month study period. They stated that these findings “should prompt an examination of industry influences on opioid prescribing.”

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology


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