Physicians more likely to prescribe opioids after receiving gifts from pharma companies

Receiving gifts from pharmaceutical companies related to opioids increases the likelihood of a physician prescribing opioids to patients in the following year, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data from a CMS database to gather information on gifts given to physicians by pharmaceutical and medical device companies in 2014 and 2015 that were related to promotion of opioid medications. They then matched that data with Medicare data on prescribing of opioids in 2015 and 2016. The study included data on 236,103 physicians.

They found an association between physicians receiving gifts related to opioid promotion and prescription of opioids in the next year. Additionally, they found primary care physicians were 3.5 times as likely to be in the highest quartile of opioid prescribing if they were paid $100 or more in gifts, while psychiatrists and neurologists who were paid $100 or more were 13 times as likely to be in the highest quartile of opioid prescribing as compared to their counterparts who received less money.

"Our research points to a potential motivator behind [opioid] prescribing that could be reduced through policy interventions," said Mara Hollander, lead study author and a doctoral student at University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health in Pittsburgh.

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