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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Pittsburgh: Finds Opioid-Related Gifts from Pharma Companies Linked to Physician Prescribing by Specialty

Physicians who received gifts from pharmaceutical companies related to opioid medications were more likely to prescribe opioids to their patients the following year, compared to physicians who did not receive such gifts, according to a new analysis led by health policy scientists at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The research, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, is the first to apply robust statistical analysis methods in examining the relationship between gift-giving and opioid prescribing by medical specialty, as well as by pharmaceutical company.

“For every 100 Americans, there were 58 opioid prescriptions written in 2017 — that is a tremendous amount of prescribing in a country that is struggling with an opioid epidemic,” said lead author Ms. Mara Hollander, a doctoral student in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management. “Our research points to a potential motivator behind this prescribing that could be reduced through policy interventions.”

Using Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and Sunshine Act data, Ms. Hollander and her team found that while there was a relationship between gifts and opioid prescribing in all specialties, there was considerable variability. Primary care physicians were 3.5 times as likely to be in the highest quartile of opioid prescribing if they were paid $100 or more in gifts. Psychiatrists and neurologists who were paid $100 or more were 13 times as likely to be in the highest quartile of opioid prescribing compared to their counterparts who received less.

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