Payments from Drug Companies to Physicians Are Associated with Higher Volume and More Expensive Opioid Analgesic Prescribing
Mark Zezza, NYSHealth, and Marcus Bachhuber, Montefiore Medical Center
Special Projects Fund
December 19, 2018
A national study by NYSHealth Policy & Research Director Mark Zezza and Marcus Bachhuber of Montefiore Medical Center finds that payments from opioid manufacturers were associated with higher opioid prescribing rates among physicians for Medicare patients. Physicians who started receiving these payments in 2014—from free meals to speaking and consulting fees—increased their opioid prescribing an average of 26%, or $6,000 more than for similar physicians who did not receive such payments. These payments were associated with both an increase in the number of daily doses prescribed and a shift to more expensive opioids.
Even small payments, of less than $45, led to significant increases in opioid prescribing, although larger payments were associated with significantly higher increases. Physicians receiving less than $45 had an increase of $900 in average opioid expenditures, while those receiving at least $327 in opioid payments had average increased expenditures of $52,307 for opioid prescriptions.
These findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, complement earlier NYSHealth research that found similar patterns among New York State physicians. Together, they add to the growing public policy concern that payments from opioid drug manufacturers can influence physician prescribing.