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JAMA Netw Open. 2019 Jan 4;2(1):e186007. doi: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.6007.

Association of Pharmaceutical Industry Marketing of Opioid Products With Mortality From Opioid-Related Overdoses.

Author information

1
Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.
2
Department of Pediatrics, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.
3
Grayken Center for Addiction, Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts.
4
Department of Emergency Medicine, School of Medicine, University of California at Davis, Sacramento.
5
Department of Population Health, New York University School of Medicine, New York.
6
Department of Epidemiology, Brown University School of Public Health, Providence, Rhode Island.

Erratum in

Abstract

Importance:

Prescription opioids are involved in 40% of all deaths from opioid overdose in the United States and are commonly the first opioids encountered by individuals with opioid use disorder. It is unclear whether the pharmaceutical industry marketing of opioids to physicians is associated with mortality from overdoses.

Objective:

To identify the association between direct-to-physician marketing of opioid products by pharmaceutical companies and mortality from prescription opioid overdoses across US counties.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

This population-based, county-level analysis of industry marketing information used data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Open Payments database linked with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on opioid prescribing and mortality from overdoses. All US counties were included, with data on overdoses from August 1, 2014, to December 31, 2016, linked to marketing data from August 1, 2013, to December 31, 2015, using a 1-year lag. Statistical analyses were conducted between February 1 and June 1, 2018.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

County-level mortality from prescription opioid overdoses, total cost of marketing of opioid products to physicians, number of marketing interactions, opioid prescribing rates, and sociodemographic factors.

Results:

Between August 1, 2013, and December 31, 2015, there were 434 754 payments totaling $39.7 million in nonresearch-based opioid marketing distributed to 67 507 physicians across 2208 US counties. After adjustment for county-level sociodemographic factors, mortality from opioid overdoses increased with each 1-SD increase in marketing value in dollars per capita (adjusted relative risk, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.05-1.12), number of payments to physicians per capita (adjusted relative risk, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.14-1.21, and number of physicians receiving marketing per capita (adjusted relative risk, 1.12; 95% CI, 1.08-1.16). Opioid prescribing rates also increased with marketing and partially mediated the association between marketing and mortality.

Conclusions and Relevance:

In this study, across US counties, marketing of opioid products to physicians was associated with increased opioid prescribing and, subsequently, with elevated mortality from overdoses. Amid a national opioid overdose crisis, reexamining the influence of the pharmaceutical industry may be warranted.

PMID:
30657529
PMCID:
PMC6484875
DOI:
10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.6007
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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