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Doctors receiving perks from drug makers prescribe more opioids, says study

Amid the ongoing drug crisis in the United States, a recent study has found a strong connection between the perks given to doctors by pharmaceutical companies and the number of opioid prescriptions written by them. According to the study conducted by the Boston Medical Center’s Grayken Center for Addiction, gifts, cash payments, speaking fees, and free meals from drug makers to doctors led to a 9 percent increase in the number of prescriptions for opioid medications.

The researchers examined details of pharmaceutical payments and gifts from 2014 using the Open Payments and the Medicare databases. Then they corresponded the stats with opioid prescriptions written in 2015. A careful observation of the data showed that doctors who received perks in the past year ended up prescribing more opioids the following year. The findings of the study were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in May 2018.

The research team also observed that the number of prescriptions issued in 2015 was three times more than that of 1999. Additionally, the study also pointed out that nearly 40 percent of all overdose deaths in the country involved a prescription opioid. As per the study, Insys Therapeutics, which manufactures the opioid spray medication called Subsys to manage cancer pain, paid $4.5 million a year to doctors as perks. INSYS Therapeutics. The other big drug makers involved in unethical practice included Janssen Pharmaceuticals ($854,000), and Teva Pharmaceuticals ($869,000). Notably, Insys is currently being investigated by federal authorities.

“Amidst national efforts to curb the overprescribing of opioids, our findings suggest that manufacturers should consider a voluntary decrease or complete cessation of marketing to physicians,” said Dr. Scott Hadland, one of the researchers of the study.

To prevent such unethical practices in the future, experts suggest that the government must set a limit on the number of gifts that a doctor can receive from pharmaceutical companies. Additionally, the government must mandate the scrutiny of the fraudulent marketing tactics used by opioid makers to downplay the addictive nature of the drugs.

Treatment is key to sobriety

In the past two decades, the rampant non-medical use of prescription opioids has acquired nightmarish proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 46 people in the U.S. succumb to overdoses involving prescription opioids every day. The CDC data also shows that over 200,000 people lost their lives to drug overdoses related to prescription opioids between 1999 and 2016. Besides, overdose deaths were five times higher in 2016 than the corresponding figures in 1999.

Extended use or abuse of prescription opioids alters the manner in which nerve cells function in the brain. In most of the cases where opioid painkillers are used to manage chronic pain, the nerve cells in the brain get used to the presence of the drug in the body.

Studies attribute the monumental rates of fatal overdoses and drug dependence to the millions of prescriptions written to manage post-surgical pain or other painful conditions stemming from chronic ailments. However, the good thing is that opioid addiction is treatable with timely professional help. If you or your loved one is battling addiction to any harmful drug, contact the 24/7 Recovery Helpline to learn about one of the best residential drug treatment programmes. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-441-4405 to speak to one of our certified representatives. You can also chat online with our counselor to know about various state-of-the-art residential drug treatment centers across different locations in the U.S.

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