A new study, which may not come as a surprise to many, has just linked the enthusiastic marketing of opioids to doctors with the current opioid epidemic taking place within the United States.
As Web MD has reported, by conducting an analysis on a county-by-county basis, researchers discovered that in the counties where the pharmaceutical industry most heavily marketed their opiates to doctors, these counties also saw the highest number of opioid abuse cases and deaths, according to lead researcher Dr. Scott Hadland, from Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction.
“The counties that had the most opioid product marketing from pharmaceutical companies were the counties that subsequently one year later had more opioid prescribing and had more opioid overdose deaths.”
In fact, it was even discovered that pharmaceutical companies didn’t need to have too heavy of a hand in their marketing efforts in these counties to cause opioid abuse and death cases to soar, as research showed that even doing something as simple as taking doctors out to dinner and chatting them up about their drugs was something that worked just as well as paying them money directly to flog their opioids to patients.
Furthermore, for just three extra payments made to doctors for every 100,000 people in the counties that were studied, the tragic death rate due to opioids shot up by an astounding 18 percent.
Hadland noted that subtle marketing of opioids was frequently overlooked in major lawsuits against companies like Purdue Pharma, who make OxyContin, and that this study shows that these need to be taken much more seriously.
“The dollar value of these payments is less important than the number of these marketing interactions that take place. The widespread practice of taking doctors out to lunch or dinner to talk about opioid products is probably contributing more to the opioid crisis in the U.S. than these less common instances of docs receiving really large-value payments.”
Linda Richter, the director of policy analysis and research for the Center on Addiction in New York City, has stated that salespeople for pharmaceutical products frequently push opioids onto doctors at lunch and dinner meetings by discussing untreated pain in their patients, which apparently wins over doctors regularly and gets them to prescribe more opioids than are necessary, and Richter believes that this should be prohibited by law.
“Policymakers and state health regulators should prohibit licensed health professionals from accepting any such payments or incentives from the industry. Although physicians might believe that industry marketing efforts have no impact on their prescribing choices, a large body of evidence proves otherwise.”
When it comes to the marketing of opioids, between August 2013 and December 2015 alone the pharmaceutical industry spent a total of $39.7 million pushing their products onto 67,507 doctors in the United States, with a grand total of 434,754 payments made to doctors over this time period.
As Hadland noted, “What’s clear from our analysis is all this marketing is tied to greater prescribing of opioids and, in turn, elevated deaths from prescription opioids.”
The new study, which has linked the marketing of opioids to doctors by the pharmaceutical industry with opioid abuse and deaths in the United States, has been published in JAMA Network Open.