A study from the center now run by the former national drug policy director suggests that payments to physicians from drug companies that market opioids may be having a far-reaching influence on physician practices.
Published online this month in the American Journal of Public Health, the study used Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data to conclude that one in five family doctors and one in 12 physicians overall accepted payments from pharmaceutical companies related to opioids. While the average payment to physicians was nominal, the top 1% of payment collectors in the physician community accounted for 82% of the total paid by the drug companies, averaging more than $2,600 in payments received annually.
“There's no denying that we have a widespread and systematic problem,” said Michael Botticelli, former director of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and now executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center. “Pharmaceutical companies should take responsibility for how these payments are contributing to the growing [opioid] epidemic.”
The research identified payments totaling more than $46 million to more than 68,000 physicians from August 2013 to December 2015. Food and beverage payments were the most common form of payment, with speaking fees accounting for the larget overall amount paid.
The center stated that this was the first national, large-scale study of pharmaceutical company payments related to opioids. Researchers recommended that policy-makers consider imposing limits on certain types of payments.