Analysis: Opioid payments to physicians fell 33% between 2015-16

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Opioid makers reported significantly fewer payments to physicians in 2016, compared to the year prior, according to a ProPublica analysis cited by NPR.

ProPublica analyzed payments physicians received from drugmakers in accordance with NPR's update of its Dollars for Docs tool, which allows users to view and compare promotional payments to physicians from drug and medical device companies. The tool now includes more than 9 billion payments to more than 900,000 physicians since 2013.

ProPublica's analysis revealed drugmakers gave physicians $15.8 million in opioid-related payments in 2016, marking a 33 percent decrease from the $23.7 million drugmakers dolled out in 2015.

Scott Hadland, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, Mass. who studies opioid marketing, told NPR the decreases were "impressive," but not surprising given the growing awareness and concern about drug companies' opioid marketing practices.

While Dr. Hadland said it's hard to identify a distinct reason for the decrease, he believes "it's possible that the pharmaceutical companies voluntarily reduced their marketing, realizing that they may have been contributing to overprescribing," according to NPR.

Michael Barnett, PhD and assistant professor of health policy and management at Harvard School of Public Health, Cambridge, Mass, told NPR: "If this is actually a result of manufacturers actually saying, 'Holy crap, people actually care about opioids being used responsibly' and they're aware that their advocacy and payments to physicians could be seen as pushing these medications in a way that is ethically dubious, then that's a beneficial development and something I'd like to see more of."

More articles on opioids: 

70K overdose deaths may be unaccounted for in US: 4 things to know
More kids overdosing on anti-addiction medication, study finds
This startup wants to track opioid use via sewers

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