Pharma Payments to Docs Led to Nearly 4% Boost in Prescription Spending: Study Shows

Summary of Study: Pharma payments to docs led to nearly 4% boost in prescription spending published on FierceHealthcare, February 20, 2020.

A study has found drug companies payments to licensed physicians led to an increase of nearly 4% in prescriptions to patients. Although we would rather see prescriptions lowered, this is a much less explosive study when compared to other research conducted.

"The study, released Thursday from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), tackles the controversial practice of pharmaceutical manufacturers paying doctors to speak at conferences, get meals or cover educational expenses. The study also examined the role payments played in the transition of patients from a brand-name drug onto a generic," study shows.

Researchers found that shortly after doctors received a payment, drug spending began to increase. “On average, expenditures are approximately $9 greater per month in the year following the payment,” the study said. “Relative to average monthly expenditures, $238, this is slightly less than a 4% increase.” The study noted that the impact on spending is much smaller than other research has found. A similar study, for example, found payments to cardiologists increased prescriptions of statins by 73%.
NBER’s study also examined whether the estimated slight increase in expenditures is due to more patients being put on a drug.

“The number of patients does increase shortly after the payment, although the magnitude is relatively small,” the study said. “We note that an increase in the number of patients taking the drug could arise both from physicians deciding to start a new patient on the drug after an encounter with the drug firm or physicians differentially continuing current patients on the drug (instead of switching to another drug).”

Read more about this study and analysis by FierceHealthcare.

Taylor Weyeneth is Sr. Editor at DC Intervention, former deputy chief of staff to the White House drug policy office and is the managing director of 20K Strategies, a political operations and public policy strategy firm. He is a thought leader for addiction, mental health, and workforce development.

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