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Opioid manufacturers decrease marketing to doctors following lawsuits and tougher regulations

The aggressive promotion of opioid painkillers by the pharmaceutical industry has played a key role in the U.S. opioid epidemic, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives over the last two decades. However, new data may indicate that legal action taken against manufacturers of prescription painkillers may be causing them to rethink these marketing tactics that helped caused the opioid crisis.

One of the most common tactics used by manufacturers of opioid painkillers is to pay doctors “speaking fees” in order to encourage them to prescribe these drugs to their patients. But according to a new analysis conducted by ProPublica, the use of these speaking fees by opioid manufacturers is beginning to fall sharply.

The ProPublica analysis found that payments by the pharmaceutical industry to doctors for speaking or consulting fees, meals, or travel fell sharply in 2016, the last year for which data is available. According to ProPublica, opioid payments to doctors fell 33% in 2016 from the previous year, from $23.7 million in 2015 to just $15.8 million in 2016.

Lawsuits against opioid manufacturers who aggressively promoted these drugs to doctors have played an important role in this spending decrease. Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, has faced lawsuits across the U.S. from state and local prosecutors over its aggressive marketing of this powerful opioid to doctors. Insys Therapeutics, the maker of the fentanyl spray Subsys, has also faced lawsuits by government prosecutors, as well as criminal charges against its executives for payments to doctors designed to increase sales of this opioid medication.

Another factor in this decrease in payments by opioid manufacturers to doctors has been an increase public scrutiny these companies have faced as a result of increased media coverage and new disclosure laws. As the opioid epidemic has raged over the last two decades, the media has begun to publicize the millions paid by Purdue, Insys, and other opioid manufacturers to doctors, making it harder for these companies to conceal their aggressive marketing practices. The Physician Payment Sunshine Act, a law passed as part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, has also mandated public disclosures of pharmaceutical company payments to physicians, making it even harder for opioid manufacturers to hide these payments.

Studies have shown that the marketing of opioid painkillers has played a key role in the explosion of the U.S. opioid epidemic. According to a 2014 study, every dollar spent marketing opioid painkillers to doctors resulted in an increase in Medicaid claims for opioids by these doctors the following year. Another study, published by the New York State Health Foundation, found that doctors who received payments from opioid manufacturers prescribed more opioids than doctors who had not received payments.

Over the last several years, the number of opioid painkiller prescriptions in the U.S. has started to decline, falling from 81.7 million prescriptions in 2014, to 80.2 million in 2015, and just 79.5 million in 2016. But in spite of this decrease, the number of opioid overdoses in the U.S. continues to climb. According to data from the CDC, about 42,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2016; about 40% of these overdoses involved prescription painkillers.

And in spite of the overall decline in payments to doctors by opioid manufacturers, some drugmakers actually increased their opioids spending in 2016. Endo Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer of the drug Opana, spent about $229,000 on payments to physicians in 2016, up from $121,000 the previous year. Manufacturers of the painkiller buprenorphine – which includes Belbuca, Butrans, and generic buprenorphine – also increased payments to doctors in 2016. These drugmakers – including Purdue, Endo, and BioDelivery Sciences International – spent $4.4 million promoting buprenorphine in 2016, double the amount of the previous year.

Opioid Painkiller Lawsuits Filed by Heygood, Orr & Pearson

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have represented numerous patients who have suffered complications from opioid painkillers. In fact, the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have handled more cases involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other firms in the U.S. combined.

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are trial attorneys in the truest sense and have tried hundreds of cases to verdict. If you or a loved one have suffered an overdose caused by fentanyl products or other opioid painkillers, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit and receive compensation.

For more information about prescription overdose lawsuits and to find out if you qualify to file a case, contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson by calling us toll-free at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form and answering a few simple questions about your case.

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