Doctor-Targeted Marketing Linked With Rise in Deaths From Opioid Overdoses

doctor writing prescription

Increased marketing of opioid drugs to doctors is associated with higher opioid prescribing rates and higher rates of overdose deaths, according to a new study.

Researchers found that counties where opioid makers offered doctors more meals, trips and consulting fees had higher overdose deaths involving prescription opioids, compared with counties where such marketing tactics were less aggressive, The New York Times reports.

The drug industry spent about $40 million to promote opioid medications to almost 68,000 physicians from 2013 through 2015, the study found.

“We already know that one in 12 U.S. physicians received marketing for opioids, and this proportion was even higher for family physicians, among whom one in five received opioid marketing,” lead author Scott Hadland, MD, MPH, addiction researcher at Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction, said in a news release. “Our findings suggest that direct-to-physician opioid marketing may run counter to national efforts to reduce overdose deaths, and that policymakers should consider limits on marketing as part of a robust, evidence-based response to the U.S. overdose crisis.”

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Heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America. Heroin-related deaths increased by more than five times between 2010 and 2017, and drug deaths from fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are seeing a sharp rise as well.

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    Dave Finch

    January 24, 2019 at 3:49 PM

    The association of pharma marketing with opioid overdose deaths cannot be seen as more than tenuous unless, within the high death direct marketing counties can be controlled for pill mill operations in the same or even far distant counties. A pill mill operated in Georgia, for example, may be popular with users in West Virginia and account for a spike in WV counties. The CDC and DEA should report on the extent to which pill mills are still operating.

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