New York State Health Foundation Publishes Study on Doctor-Drugmaker Relationship

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

New York State Health Foundation Publishes Study on Doctor-Drugmaker Relationship

A new study found that New York doctors who received speaking fees, gifts and meals from the makers of addictive opioid drugs in 2014 and 2015 prescribed more opioids than their peers who did not receive anything.

The study, published Tuesday by the private New York State Health Foundation, is the first statewide look at the financial entanglements between physicians and opioid manufacturers _ entanglements that many say were and still are a contributing factor to the nation's deadly and growing opioid epidemic.

"Other studies have documented an association between payments and prescribing patterns, raising the inevitable chicken and egg question," said David Sandman, president and CEO of the foundation. "Do they prescribe more after they are paid or are they paid after they prescribe more? In this case, we wanted to look at the onset of payments, what happened when they went from nothing to getting paid?"

To determine that, the foundation looked at activity from 2013 through 2015 to analyze how opioid prescriptions for Medicare patients changed after their doctors started receiving payments from opioid manufacturers. Such payments include speaking fees or honoraria, food and beverages, travel and lodging, consulting fees, gifts, grants and educational materials.

The report compared two groups of physicians in New York, both with a similar specialty mix so as not to skew the data (they wouldn't, for example, compare physicians who never see patients with pain to those who do, as the latter is naturally more inclined to prescribe painkillers based on patient need).

Additionally, both groups of doctors had similar payment histories: in 2013, neither group received payments from opioid manufacturers.

The analysis found a clear divergence. Doctors who got their first payments in 2014 increased their opioid prescribing more than twice as much over one year, compared with similar physicians who did not receive any payments that year...

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