- Doctors who receive even one payment from a pharmaceutical company for a brand name drug are five times more prone to prescribe that drug over an alternative treatment, including generics, according to a new CareDash study. The likelihood rises to 14.5% when the payment involves a specific opioid drug.
- From 2014 to 2016, drug companies paid doctors a total of $6.2 billion for services like promotional talks, royalties/licenses and consulting.
- Opioid manufacturers paid physicians more than $43 million, with Insys Therapeutics and Purdue Pharma doling out $16 million and $11.5 million, respectively, over the two-year period.
Prescription drugs accounted for 17% to 20% of all U.S. healthcare spend in 2015, and invoice spending on medications is expected to reach $580 billion to $610 billion by 2021, the report says.
The top two drugs for which doctors received payments — Xarelto and Invokana, with $76.5 million and $55.9 million, respectively — are both made by Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals. AbbVie’s Humira was number three, with payments totaling $53 million.
More than 74,000 payments totaling $16 million were tied to Insys’ fentanyl drug Subsys between 2014 and 2016. Doctors in Arizona, California, Florida, New York, Ohio and Texas took more payments for opioids than those in other states—with New York claiming the most per provider at $1,014.93.
In general, family practice physicians were most likely to prescribe a brand name drug after receiving payment from the manufacturer, followed by internal medicine, psychiatry and cardiology.
“This analysis pulls back the curtain on the influence pharmaceutical companies may have on a patient’s course of treatment and allows patients to make more informed healthcare choices,” Ted Chan, founder and CEO of CareDash, said in a statement. “Patients have the right to know about their doctors’ motivations, any potential conflicts of interest, and should be aware of the connection between the marketing practices of pharmaceutical manufacturers and the drugs they are prescribed by their physician.”
Drug companies have been coming under fire for their role in the opioid crisis, in part because of aggressive marketing. In late February, the Department of Justice announced plans to file a statement of interest in a multi-district action for hundreds of opioid-related lawsuits. Days later, President Donald Trump suggested a federal lawsuit against opioid makers could be in the offing.
In February, New York filed a lawsuit against Insys, alleging it recklessly pitched Subsys to a wider patient population, downplayed the drug’s addiction risk, bribed doctors to prescribe it and lied to insurers to avoid prior authorizations.
And just this week, a tribe in Oklahoma sued 26 drugmakers, accusing them of intentionally misrepresenting the risks and benefits of addictive painkillers. The Ponca tribe is seeking a jury trial and an injunction barring drug companies and distributors from using “unfair or deceptive practices.”