A new research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals an association between doctors who received payments from big pharma companies and those that prescribed more opioids.
The research letter was published online on May 14, and details a study in which the authors examined the relationship between the marketing of opioid products by big pharma companies in 2014 and the prescribing practices of those doctors during 2015.
In order to ascertain whether or not any relationship between big pharma payments and the prescription practices of doctors existed, the researchers examined data from the Open Payments database and from the Medicare Part D Opioid Prescriber Summary File. The researchers then examined the data to determine whether there was any relationship between doctors who received payments from big pharma companies, including meals, and the subsequent prescribing practices of those doctors.
Ultimately, the study concluded that there was an association between doctors who prescribed more opioids and those who received payments from big pharma companies. However, while there was an association, the parameters of the study cannot determine whether or not there is a causal relationship between big pharma payments and prescription practices.
It is not be possible to ascertain whether a cause and effect relationship exists between the big pharma payments and the prescription practices, or whether those doctors more inclined to prescribe opioids are also those who are more likely to accept payments from big pharma companies.
Nevertheless, it is clear that there is some relationship between the two factors, and as such, the authors of the research study recommend that drug manufacturers voluntarily decrease or complete stop marketing to doctors. Furthermore, the research letter recommends that state and federal governments consider additional legislation to better regulate the marketing of opioids to doctors.