Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Study Ranks Ohio 8th For Number Of Docs Getting Big Pharma Prescription Payments

Ohio Public Radio

A new study shows one in five family doctors have received a payment for prescribing an opioid medication - and Ohio is among the top ten states for it. Ohio Public Radio's Karen Kasler reports.

The study in the current edition of the American Journal of Public Health showed opioid drug makers paid over $46 million to more than 68,000 American doctors in a 28-month period ending in December 2015. Ohio, which has been in a full-blown opioid crisis for several years, ranked eighth for total payments from opioid manufacturers to doctors. Scott Hadland is a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and a specialist in helping adolescents and young adults struggling with addiction to opioids that, in most cases, they got as prescription painkillers from their doctors. He’s also one of the authors of the study, which was done by examining drug companies’ reporting of payments they made to doctors for marketed medications.


What we found was pretty shocking – that 1 in 12 doctors in the United States have received a payment involving an opioid medication. And when you look at family medicine doctors, who are on the front lines of primary care in this country, that number rose to 1 in 5.”


In Ohio, $87 dollars was spent by opioid makers for every 1,000 residents. While that’s well below the top state of Colorado, it’s a huge deal because Ohio is near the top nationwide in terms of deaths related to opioids. Many people got started on their opioid addictions through prescription painkillers, and some turned to heroin, which can be mixed with other more deadly drugs. Hadland is careful to note that prescription painkillers have a legitimate use, and there needs to be more work to understand how those payments might affect the behavior of the doctors who receive them. But some of what he found suggests there may be a connection.


There are data, though, that show – including data using the same data set that we did – that show that when physicians receive payments for medications, they’re more likely to prescribe those brand-name medications, even when the payment is something very small, like a $14 or $15 meal.”


And Hadland says if a connection is proven, then there’s more work to do.


If we do find that that link exists, then I think that we will have to, as a group – as the medical profession, as a pharmaceutical industry, and as a group of policymakers in the United States – take a moment and ask ourselves, is this an appropriate practice and should we consider policy interventions like placing caps on these payments?”

Hadland says payments involving other kinds of medication also happen, but these payments come as Ohio’s opioid overdose deaths continue to soar, and the crisis is pushing the state to put limits on those painkiller prescriptions.


The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
Related Content