Doctors receiving money from pharmaceutical companies for prescribing their medications is a common practice in health care industry. Now, a new study published online in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) on Aug. 8, 2017, further shows the nexus between medical practitioners and drug manufacturers. According to the study, one in 12 physicians received money from manufacturers marketing prescription opioids.
Researchers at the Boston Medical Center referred to the Open Payments program database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services between Aug. 2013 and Dec. 2015 to identify opioid-related payments made to physicians. According to the findings, 68,177 doctors, who were involved in pushing powerful painkillers, received over $46 million in payments from drug companies.
The study revealed that doctors were paid mostly for promoting fentanyl, a highly-addictive synthetic opioid typically used in hospitals to treat cancer patients and post-surgical pain. It was found that companies were not bothered about marketing tamper-proof versions of pills, which were specifically created to deal with opioid crisis.
Scott Hadland, a pediatrician and author of the study, expressed his concern over the involvement of family physicians in promoting opioid drugs, for which they received the largest number of payments. According to Hadland, opioids are among the heavily marketed drugs for pain relief. On the contrary, other pain relief methods — including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen – are comparatively less aggressively marketed.
Furthermore, physicians received about two-thirds of the total payments as speaking fees while about 700 doctors collected about 83 percent of the total market budget spent on medical practitioners, the study found.
Dealing with opioid epidemic
In a country where drug overdose-related deaths have reached an epidemic level, such transactions can prove dangerous for the public health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid drugs contributed to more than 33,000 deaths in 2015. Moreover, nearly 90 people succumb to opioid overdose every day.
Strict measures should be taken to curb such practices that spur opioid misuse/abuse across the country. People should be educated about the hazards associated with opioid abuse so that they do not approach illegal channels to fuel their addiction. Remember that addiction to harmful opioid painkillers can be treated with timely medical intervention. If a person is addicted to opioids, he/she should immediately seek professional help from a reputed mental health care provider.
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