CLEVELAND, Ohio — One in five family doctors and one in 12 of all doctors have received payments from major drug companies hawking highly-addictive opioid painkillers that are, in part, at the root of America’s skyrocketing heroin epidemic, according to a new study published this week.
That finding — coupled with other recent studies that indicate doctors who receive even the smallest of drug company payments may prescribe more medications — caught researchers at the Boston Medical Center off-guard, says the study’s author, Scott Hadland, a pediatrician and adolescent addiction specialist at the center.
The study, published Wednesday in the American Journal of Public Health, sought to answer a simple question in the face of the opioid epidemic that hit Ohio particularly hard: How many doctors received payments for a marketed opioid?
Researchers found that it’s a widespread phenomenon, Hadland said.
“What’s different about opioids is that they are one of the only medications in the U.S. in 2017 that there are active public health efforts to reduce the prescribing of,” Hadland explained.
Many people who become addicted to heroin, fentanyl or a combination of opioids began their habits with painkillers prescribed by doctors. It’s one of the reasons why Hadland set out to conduct the study, he said.