Americans are dying from opioid addiction at an astounding rate. The numbers of opioid deaths are in the tens of thousands annually. It is no secret that the opioid addiction crisis was well orchestrated by giant pharmaceutical companies. However, it turns out, that the doctors prescribing the opioids were not just that of pharma’s puppets, but more their profiteers.
Researchers at Harvard University have discovered that opioid manufacturers are paying off doctors to prescribe the addictive, controversial painkillers. The more opioids a doctor prescribes, the more money he or she makes.
The study shows that “thousands of doctors” were paid more than $25,000 to write opioid prescriptions. The larger the amount of the prescription, the larger the sum of the payment, according to the report published by CNN.
“This is the first time we’ve seen this, and it’s really important,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a senior scientist at the Institute for Behavioral Health at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, where he is co-director of the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative.
“It smells like doctors being bribed to sell narcotics, and that’s very disturbing,” said Kolodny, who is also the executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.
Harvard researchers claim it could be a chicken or egg scenario, meaning, pharma companies could have decided to delve out cash rewards to doctors who were already heavily prescribing opioids. However, it seems more likely a scenario that cash was being used as an incentive (I mean, isn’t that the fundamental basis of cash?).
“I don’t know if the money is causing the prescribing or the prescribing led to the money, but in either case, it’s potentially a vicious cycle. It’s cementing the idea for these physicians that prescribing this many opioids is creating value,” said Dr. Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
CNN spoke with two women who’ve struggled with opioidaddiction, and they described the sense of betrayal they felt when they learned that their doctors had received large sums of money from the manufacturers of the drugs that had created such havoc in their lives.
Carey Ballou said she trusted her doctor and figured that if he was prescribing opioids, it must be because they were the best option for her pain.
Then she learned that opioid manufacturers paid her doctor more than a million dollars over two years.
“Once I found out he was being paid, I thought, ‘was it really in my best interest, or was it in his best interest?’ ” she said.
The CNN/Harvard analysis looked at 2014 and 2015, during which time more than 811,000 doctors wrote prescriptions to Medicare patients. Of those, nearly half wrote at least one prescription for opioids.
Fifty-four percent of those doctors — more than 200,000 physicians — received a payment from pharmaceutical companies that make opioids.
Doctors were more likely to get paid by drug companies if they prescribed a lot of opioids — and they were more likely to get paid a lot of money.
Among doctors in the top 25th percentile of opioid prescribers by volume, 72% received payments. Among those in the top fifth percentile, 84% received payments. Among the very biggest prescribers — those in the top 10th of 1% — 95% received payments.
Now the question becomes, what is going to be done about this? At most, an irrelevant inconsequential fine. This is the true problem, pharmaceutical companies operate without fear of repercussions. With vaccine injuries, pharmaceutical companies can’t be sued. But even in other drug verticals where they can be sued or even fined, the cash awards hardly affect any bottom line financials. Pharma acts with malice, as has been shown in this CNN/Harvard analysis because the return on malicious strategy is far greater than the potential fine. For pharma, the ROI is the main concern and they continually win that battle by acting nefariously.