Industry Payments to Physicians for Opioid Products, 2013-2015

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Abstract

Objectives

To identify payments that involved opioid products from the pharmaceutical industry to physicians.

Methods

We used the Open Payments program database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to identify payments involving an opioid to physicians between August 2013 and December 2015. We used medians, interquartile ranges, and ranges as a result of heavily skewed distributions to examine payments according to opioid product, abuse-deterrent formulation, nature of payment, state, and physician specialty.

Results

During the study, 375 266 nonresearch opioid-related payments were made to 68 177 physicians, totaling $46 158 388. The top 1% of physicians received 82.5% of total payments in dollars. Abuse-deterrent formulations constituted 20.3% of total payments, and buprenorphine marketed for addiction treatment constituted 9.9%. Most payments were for speaking fees or honoraria (63.2% of all dollars), whereas food and beverage payments were the most frequent (93.9% of all payments). Physicians specializing in anesthesiology received the most in total annual payments (median = $50; interquartile range = $16-$151).

Conclusions

Approximately 1 in 12 US physicians received a payment involving an opioid during the 29-month study. These findings should prompt an examination of industry influences on opioid prescribing.

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