WEDNESDAY, Jan. 23, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Marketing of opioids to physicians is associated with increased mortality from opioid overdoses, according to a study published online Jan. 18 in JAMA Network Open.

Scott E. Hadland, M.D., M.P.H., from the Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues conducted a population-based analysis of industry marketing information using data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Open Payments database linked with U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data on opioid prescribing and mortality from overdoses.

The researchers identified 434,754 payments totaling $39.7 million in non-research-based opioid marketing distributed to 67,507 physicians across 2,208 U.S. counties from Aug. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2015. Mortality from opioid overdoses increased with each one-standard deviation increase in marketing value in dollars per capita, number of payments to physicians per capita, and number of physicians receiving marketing per capita (adjusted relative risks, 1.09, 1.18, and 1.12, respectively) after adjustment for county-level sociodemographic factors. There was an increase in opioid prescribing rates with marketing, which partially mediated the correlation between marketing and mortality.

“Amid a worsening opioid crisis, our results suggest that industry marketing to physicians may run counter to current efforts to curb excessive opioid prescribing,” the authors write. “Policymakers should continue to consider limiting the extent to which pharmaceutical companies may contribute to inappropriate opioid prescribing while balancing the need for access to opioids for patients who need them.”

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