Recent public attention has caused makers of opioids to decrease marketing dollars spent to promote their use to physicians. Pharmaceutical company payments to physicians related to opioid drugs decreased significantly in 2016 from the year before according to NPR.org. In 2016, drug makers spent $15.8 million to pay doctors for speaking, consulting, meals and travel related to opioid drugs. That was down 33 percent from $23.7 million in 2015 and is 21 percent less than the $19.9 million spent in 2014. Dr. Scott Hadland, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine who has studied opioid marketing, said the decreases were “impressive” but not surprising given the growing awareness and concern about pharmaceutical companies’ marketing of opioids.
A number of studies have shown a correlation between marketing of opioids and doctors’ prescribing of the drugs. Hadland and his colleagues reported in May that for every meal a physician received related to an opioid product in 2014, there was an increase in opioid claims by that doctor for Medicare patients the following year. And a report from the New York State Health Foundation published this month found that physicians who received payments from opioid-makers prescribed more opioids to Medicare patients than doctors who didn’t receive the payments.
The sharp drop in marketing is more pronounced than the much-slower reduction in the use of prescription opioids. The number of opioid prescriptions in Medicare peaked at 81.7 million in 2014, and then dropped to 80.2 million in 2015 and 79.5 million in 2016, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). (Enrollment in Medicare’s prescription drug program continued to grow during that time, so the rate of opioid prescriptions per beneficiary dropped even more.)
The Great Plains QIN is partnering with providers, pharmacists and stakeholders in the region to reduce opioid-related harms. Tools, education and trainings are available on our website.