Does Opioid Marketing Raise Overdose Death Rates?

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An observational study published in JAMA Network Open analyzes the link between how much money pharmaceutical companies spend marketing to doctors and opioid overdose death rates a year later. The companies spent nearly $40 million to market their medications to U.S. doctors between 2013 and 2015.

The researchers who conducted the JAMA study looked at more than 2,000 counties across the United States to see whether overdose death rates changed in the year after doctors in the area received payments and/or marketing material from opioid manufacturers. The counties that got more marketing attention did later experience higher overdose death rates.

The study authors point out that prescription opioids account for about 40 percent of all overdose deaths and, more importantly, are the first opioid a person typically encounters. While most overdose deaths are related to illicitly obtained opioids, mainly heroin and fentanyl, the authors say using prescription opioids first may lead to OD deaths from any type of opioid. Although the study did not prove causation, it does show that pharmaceutical companies and doctors may play an unexpected role in the opioid epidemic, and it raises questions about how the U.S. health care system could more effectively address the opioid crisis.

Sourced from: JAMA Network Open