Addiction to the opioid painkillers is now the most lethal drug epidemic in America's history—and it's being partly fuelled by drug companies who are bribing doctors to hand out more prescriptions.
Doctors who are accepting the bribes—such as free meals, travel or lucrative consulting fees—are writing around 9 per cent more prescriptions for an opioid, new research has discovered.
Drug companies spend more than $9m a year to encourage doctors to prescribe more opioids, such as Oxycodone, Fentanyl and codeine. The biggest payers are INSYS Therapeutics, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, researchers from Boston Medical Center discovered. Inducements include meals, speaking fees, education, travel, consulting fees and 'education'.
Around 370,000 physicians prescribed an opioid painkiller in 2014, and those that accepted an inducement wrote 9 per cent more prescriptions, and the trend continued the following year, although fewer prescriptions were written.
In 2016, more than 27,000 Americans died from an opioid painkiller addiction, and many hundreds of thousands more are dependent on the drugs.
As researcher Scott Hadland said: "The pharmaceutical industry must look beyond its bottom line and make changes to its marketing strategies in order to play a role in helping curb opioid overdose deaths."
The researchers say that legal limits on opioid marketing spend should be introduced.
(Source: JAMA Internal medicine, 2018; doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.1999)
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